Now Accepting New Clients!

FAMILY LAW 52: Defendant-mother was not entitled to relief on her claim the trial court did not comply with the requirements for a de novo hear, the trial court did not err in using the preponderance of the evidence standard, and its best interest f


In July 2017, plaintiff and defendant divorced by consent judgment. Under the judgment of divorce, the parties shared joint legal and physical custody of their three minor children. On September 24, 2018, plaintiff filed a motion to modify parenting time. The matter was referred to the Friend of the Court (FOC), and the FOC did not recommend a modification of parenting time. Plaintiff filed objections to the FOC recommendation.  The referee found that there was an established custodial environment with both parties and that plaintiff established proper cause or change of circumstances. However, the referee found that it was not in the children’s best interests to modify the parenting schedule.  Plaintiff filed objections to the referee recommendation and order and requested a de novo hearing. A de novo hearing was held in September 2019.   The trial court disagreed with some of the referee’s findings on best-interest factors; it affirmed the referee’s other findings. The trial court granted plaintiff’s request and modified the parenting-time schedule so that plaintiff and defendant had equal parenting time with alternating weeks. Defendant now appeals.


On appeal, defendant first argues that reversal is required because the trial court failed to comply with the statutory and court rule requirements for a de novo hearing by admitting that it only read “most” of the hearing transcript. Defendant failed to preserve this issue by objecting in the trial court, therefore our review is for plain error affecting substantial rights.  The record reflects that the trial court reviewed the referee’s recommendations and the hearing transcripts; the trial court stated its disagreement with the referee’s findings and explained in detail why it disagreed with those findings by referring to evidence presented at the referee hearing. The trial court ultimately made an informed decision.


Next, defendant argues that the trial court erred when it affirmed the referee’s determination that plaintiff had met the threshold required to modify parenting time because it applied the wrong legal standard.  Defendant and Defendant’s counsel both agreed that Plaintiff was seeking a modification of parenting time, not custody, and that the less stringent standard of preponderance of the evidence should be used.  When the trial court was making its ruling, it stated that the burden of proof is preponderance of the evidence, and defendant again did not object. At no point during the de novo hearing did defendant’s counsel suggest that the referee applied the wrong legal standard. Therefore, defendant has waived the issue as to which legal standard applied.  


Defendant argues that the trial court erred when it applied the preponderance of the evidence standard to the best-interest factors because the proposed modification affected the children’s established custodial environment.  Defendant failed to argue that the proposed modification would affect the children’s established custodial environment, and she failed to object to the legal standard she deems incorrect on appeal. Therefore, this issue is unpreserved.  Defendant in this case has not established a “substantial” modification of parenting time because the modification reduced defendant’s parenting time by only approximately 18%.  In addition, the change in this case did not modify the children’s schools. We therefore conclude that the change in parenting time in this case did not affect the children’s custodial environment. And, because the proposed modification did not alter the established custodial environment, the trial court did not err when it applied the preponderance of the evidence standard regarding the best-interest factors.


Lastly, defendant argues that the trial court’s findings regarding best-interest factors (c) and (j) were against the great weight of the evidence. We disagree. A trial court’s findings regarding the existence of an established custodial environment and regarding each custody factor should be affirmed unless the evidence clearly preponderates in the opposite direction. An abuse of discretion standard applies to the trial court’s discretionary rulings such as custody decisions. The record supports the findings made by the court. Therefore, because the evidence does not clearly preponderate in the opposite direction, we affirm the trial court’s best-interests determination.


Aldrich Legal Services understands what a stressful time this is for you when you have parenting time issues.

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




REAL ESTATE 68: Holding that plaintiffs-buyers’ allegations of fraud in this case arising from the sale of a residence did not preclude the trial court from granting defendants’ motion for summary disposition based on a release, the court affirmed.

This cause of action arises from plaintiffs’ purchase of a residence from defendant, who had rights in the house under a land contract from co-defendant, the legal owner of the house. Before the house was for sale, in January 2018, an upstairs...

REAL ESTATE 65: Determining that it could not conclude the trial court erred in its factual findings, and that it did not err in reforming a 2005 deed, the court affirmed the ruling that defendants were fee simple owners of the disputed 50-foot area

This case arose from a real-property dispute between brothers, as well as their respective wives. After a bench trial, the trial court rendered its findings of fact. The trial court determined that plaintiffs did not prove that excluding the...

FAMILY LAW 58: The trial court did not err by denying defendant-father’s motion to change custody and modify his parenting time of the parties’ child without having an evidentiary hearing to determine if there was proper cause or a change in circums

This case arose from a custody and parenting-time dispute between plaintiff-mother and father over their minor child. After father failed to respond to the paternity complaint within the 21 days of receipt of the complaint, mother filed an affidavit...

DIVORCE 53: Although the court affirmed the trial court’s decisions to deny defendant’s motions to set aside the default and the default JOD, it vacated the portions of the default JOD as to the distribution of marital property, custody, parenting t

Plaintiff filed for divorce. Defendant filed an answer and a counterclaim for divorce.  Plaintiff and defendant were both ordered to appear at the settlement conference. After defendant failed to appear, the trial court entered a default. Soon...

FAMILY LAW 53: The trial court erred by treating the parties’ GAL as an LGAL and denying the parties the right to question her at a hearing; however, the trial court did not err in requiring the parties to compensate the GAL for her services.

Plaintiff and Defendant were never married, but share a young son who was born in 2016. The parties have battled over custody, child support, and other parenting issues ever since. In the spring of 2019, the parties filed competing motions to modify...

The Difference Between Theft, Robbery, and Burglary

Original Post: 1/11/2019 Often, burglary, robbery, and theft are used interchangeably even though there are distinct differences between all of them. Though, what all three do have in common is they may involve the unlawful taking of...

REAL ESTATE 59: Concluding that the one-year period contained in the parties’ home purchase agreement was not a statute of limitations, but rather akin to a statute of repose, and that it was plain and unambiguous, the court held that it barred plai

BACKGROUND On March 12, 2016, the parties entered into an agreement for the purchase of defendants’ home. The purchase agreement contained the following clause: TIME FOR LEGAL ACTION: Buyer and Seller agree that any legal action against...

CRIMINAL LAW 16: The trial court did not err in refusing to order a Daubert hearing as to the reliability of the DataMaster breathalyzer device as MCL 257.625a(6)(a) shows the Legislature has determined that the device’s results are valid and reliabl

UNDERLYING FACTS In the early afternoon of November 4, 2016, defendant was pulled over after an officer was dispatched for a possible drunk driver. The officer had defendant exit his vehicle and perform several field sobriety tests. Those tests...

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
and secure reliable and trustworthy representation today!
Get the Help You Need From a Team You Can Truly Count On: (734) 404-3000