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FAMILY LAW 54: The trial court’s conclusion that defendant-mother had a substance abuse issue was not against the great weight of the evidence and did not require expert testimony.


The parties have a minor child (ABF), who was twelve-years-old at the time of the proceedings. Defendant had primary physical custody of ABF until she was involved in an accident while she was intoxicated. ABF was in the car at the time of the accident. After the accident, a blood sample was taken from defendant, which indicated her blood alcohol level was .144. Plaintiff filed an emergency motion for physical custody of ABF, which the trial court granted. Defendant filed a motion seeking primary physical custody and the trial court ordered that the parties would have week on/week off custody until a friend of the court investigation was completed. The friend of the court recommended that plaintiff be awarded physical custody. Defendant filed objections to this recommendation. Following an evidentiary hearing, the trial court awarded the parties joint legal custody and awarded plaintiff sole physical custody. Defendant now appeals.


Defendant first raises the unpreserved argument that the trial court erred when it determined that she had a substance abuse disorder in the absence of expert testimony or an admissible psychological evaluation. We disagree. We must affirm all custody orders unless the trial court’s findings of fact were against the great weight of the evidence, the court committed a palpable abuse of discretion, or the court made a clear legal error on a major issue. MCL 722.28.   In the present case, the record establishes that defendant has a history of alcohol abuse. In November 2017, defendant’s intoxication while driving led to an accident with ABF in the vehicle. Despite defendant high blood alcohol level of .144, she claimed that she did not feel intoxicated. Plaintiff testified that defendant had attempted to drive drunk with ABF in the vehicle on other occasions. On one such occasion plaintiff’s friend, witnessed defendant attempt to pick up ABF from plaintiff’s house while defendant was intoxicated. A psychological evaluation diagnosed defendant with alcohol abuse. Plaintiff testified that once, defendant called him and seemed intoxicated because of her slowed and slurred speech. Although there was no medical evidence submitted to the trial court regarding defendant’s alleged substance abuse, there was sufficient evidence to support the trial court’s conclusion that defendant had a substance abuse issue.  The trial court’s determination that defendant had a substance abuse issue was supported by evidence concerning the accident, and various witness testimony of defendant’s intoxication. Thus, here, the trial court’s conclusion that defendant had a substance abuse issue was not against the great weight of the evidence.


Defendant has not demonstrated that she is entitled to relief.  The trial court’s decision is affirmed.


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