734-359-7018
Now Accepting New Clients!
Blog

FAMILY LAW 49: Best interest factors must be used by the Court when designating the minor child’s school.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff and defendant, the parents of a minor child,  never married.  Over a year after the minor child’s birth, plaintiff filed a paternity action against defendant.  Thereafter, the parties agreed upon a final order of custody, parenting time and support, which gave both parties joint legal and physical custody of the minor child.  Their arrangement worked smoothly for over three years until the parties disagreed about which school district the minor should be enrolled in.

The parties failed to reach an agreement, and, in March 2019, defendant moved to have the court designate the minor child’s school, offering five new private school alternatives.  Defendant argued that the best-interest factors, MCL 722.23, weighed in favor of his proposed schools.

After an evidentiary hearing, the trial court issued a written opinion and concluded that defendant had established by clear and convincing evidence that a change of physical custody from plaintiff to defendant was in the minor child’s best interests, designated the school to which the child would go,  modified parenting time, terminated defendant’s child support payments, and referred the case to Friend of the Court for investigation to modify the child support obligations.  The trial court entered a written order consistent with its opinion.

Plaintiff appealed arguing that the trial court erred when it treated defendant’s motion to designate a school as a motion for change of physical custody and granted defendant sole physical custody of the minor child instead of designating a school.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under MCL 722.28, a custody order must be affirmed on appeal “unless the circuit court’s findings were against the great weight of the evidence, the circuit court committed a palpable abuse of discretion, or the circuit court made a clear legal error on a major issue.”  In child custody proceedings, an abuse of discretion occurs when a circuit court’s decision “is so palpably and grossly violative of fact and logic that it evidences a perversity of will, a defiance of judgment, or the exercise of passion or bias.”  “A ruling concerning an important decision affecting the welfare of a child is such a discretionary ruling.” 

ANALYSIS

 When the parties share joint legal custody of a child, they share decision-making authority regarding important decisions affecting the child’s welfare.  A decision concerning the child’s school and education is just such an important decision affecting the welfare of the child.  Therefore, parents with joint custody must agree concerning where their children will attend school.  However, when the parents cannot agree on an important decision, such as a change of the child’s school, the court is responsible for resolving the issue in the best interests of the child. The trial court must hold an evidentiary hearing and consider, evaluate, and determine the best-interest factors, set forth in MCL 722.23, to resolve disputes over important decisions affecting the child’s welfare that arise between joint custodial parents.  However, unlike the practice required for general change of custody hearing, during Lombardo hearings the court must narrowly focus its consideration of each best-interest factor on the specific important decision affecting the welfare of the child that is at issue.”

Here, defendant filed a motion for designation of their minor child’s school because the parties could not agree on where the child should attend elementary school.  The trial court held a hearing, but instead of determining whether the best-interest factors favored defendant’s school choice over plaintiff’s, the trial court concluded that the factors favored defendant in the context of a change of physical custody.  The trial court decided that awarding defendant sole custody was appropriate, then designated a school for the minor child based on the custody determination.  This was a clear legal error.

Although the trial court may eventually determine which parent would have sole custody of the minor child, case law mandates an additional review of the best-interest factors separate from the trial court’s review of those factors as it relates to the disputed issue, which here was school designation.  That is, after a determination that the proponent has satisfied his or her burden of proving that it is in the best interests of a child to attend one school over another, it is possible for the other party to move for a change of custody.  There are, therefore, two layers of protection: (1) a best-interest analysis to determine the specific issue the parties disagree over— school designation; and (2) once that specific issue is resolved, one of the parties can then move for a change of custody on the basis of the resolution of the specific issue.  The trial court, however, only conducted a change of custody analysis.  Therefore, the trial court clearly erred by treating defendant’s motion to designate a school for OG as a motion for change of custody.

ADVICE TO CLIENTS FACING SCHOOL DECISIONS IN FAMILY LAW CASES

 Aldrich Legal Services understands what a stressful time this is for you when you disagree with the other party regarding where your child or children are to attend school.

Aldrich Legal Services represent parents throughout southeast Michigan with a wide range of family law related matters.

Contact Aldrich Legal Services

Speak to a Pro: (734) 404-3000

 

 

 

Basic responsibilities of an executor

Originally posted on 01/11/2017 The emotional toils of dealing with the death of a loved one can be considerably difficult. Nevertheless, perseverance is paramount; especially if you are appointed to be an executor to one’s...

What you need to compliment your will

Originally posted on 02/08/2017 Making end-of-life plans usually end with a will, but they shouldn't. Some believe that simply having a will is enough. However, this post will briefly explain how having other estate planning...

The benefits of home health care providers

Originally posted on 03/22/2017 As we get older or suffer an injury, we need a little extra help. Home health care providers or caregivers can provide the assistance needed to handle your or your loved one's health and safety...

What to know about bail conditions

Originally posted on 03/06/2017 If you have been arrested and are being held on the suspicion that you have committed a particular crime, chances are that the only thing you are thinking about is getting out of jail as soon as possible and...

College students and estate planning

Originally posted on 12/16/2016 With college semesters starting up in Michigan, it may not be so easy to get college students to think responsibly. This time can be especially tough with the need of moving back to school and getting...

Three reasons to put a power of attorney in place

Originally posted on 11/08/2016 While no one wants to think of the unfortunate possibility of being incapacitated or of a time when we can't handle our own affairs, this circumstance is a real possibility. If something happens and this...

How to approach parents about estate planning

Originally posted on 12/09/2016 Family forms a strong foundation for many people's first and most intimate community. It is important to strengthen these first relationships so even uncommon questions become natural. For those...

PROBATE 44: Petition for Mental Health Treatment

Michigan’s Mental Health Code governs the civil admission and discharge procedures for a person with a mental illness. Specifically, MCL 330.1434 sets forth the procedure and content requirements for a petition for mental health treatment.

Should you get your criminal record expunged?

Originally posted on 04/12/2017 If you have been convicted of a crime, have served your sentence, and have followed all court recommendations, you should be able to put your past behind you and move on with life. Moving forward is critical...

Choosing the right executor for an estate

Originally posted on 05/28/2017 When people are thinking about planning their estate, they often think about trying to minimize the estate tax, keeping their will updated, and keeping items out of probate court; however, there is another...

Understanding how the Miranda warning works

Originally posted on 11/25/2016 Michigan residents who have seen television police shows or movies involving law enforcement have no doubt watched many dramatic scenes with officers quoting something to the effect of, "You have the...

Don't let a bad decision, unfair contract, or a messy divorce get in the way of a promising future!
Contact the experienced team at Aldrich Legal Services today to schedule your free initial
consultation
and secure reliable and trustworthy representation today!
Get the Help You Need From a Team You Can Truly Count On: (734) 404-3000
734-237-6482
734-366-4405