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FAMILY LAW 79: Plaintiff did not achieve the status of natural parent.

Plaintiff and defendant were not married to each other. During the relationship, defendant underwent in-vitro fertilization and gave birth to a child. The parties agree that plaintiff has no biological relationship to the child, and that after the child was born plaintiff did not adopt the child.

Joint Custody

In her complaint, plaintiff alleged that after the child was born both parties parented the child, even after the parties’ relationship ended.  According to plaintiff, in 2017 defendant demanded that plaintiff have no further contact with the child. In 2020, plaintiff filed action for joint legal and physical custody of the child and argued that the child’s best interests were supported by the parties sharing custody.

Plaintiff argues that she has standing to seek custody under the CCA because the parties were equitably married at the time the child was conceived and born, and she therefore is the child’s natural father.

Child Custody Act of 1970

In Michigan, the Child Custody Act of 1970 (CCA) governs custody, parenting time, and child support issues for minor children; it is the exclusive means by which to pursue child custody rights.

In her answer to the complaint, defendant asserted that plaintiff lacked standing to seek custody of the child under the CCA because she had neither a biological nor adoptive relationship with the child. Defendant thereafter moved for summary disposition of plaintiff’s complaint under MCR 2.116(C)(5) and (8), asserting that plaintiff lacked standing to seek custody of the child and had failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.

Natural Parent

The CCA defines parent as the natural or adoptive parent of a child. The Court has defined natural parent as meaning that the person is a parent related to the child by blood rather than by adoption. In addition, a person may also be deemed a natural parent under the equitable-parent doctrine. However, the court specifically declined to extend the equitable-parent doctrine outside the context of marriage.

The CCA defines a third person as an individual other than a parent. Under the CCA, a third person does not have standing by virtue of the fact that he or she resides with the child and has a ‘personal stake’ in the outcome of the litigation. Further, a third person may not create a custody dispute by simply filing a complaint in circuit court alleging that giving legal custody to the third party is in the child’s best interests.

The court determined that plaintiff in this case is not a parent of the child. The trial court granted defendant’s motion and dismissed plaintiff’s complaint with prejudice.

Child Custody & Support

Aldrich Legal Services assists parents with all types of child support and custody matters, including, relocation, petitioning for or contesting modifications, enforcing child support orders and negotiating child support agreements.

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FAMILY LAW 88: The trial court found that the children did not have an established custodial environment with defendant because, before the separation, he did not have a large role in the children’s lives.

The trial court credited plaintiff’s testimony that, before the parties’ separation, defendant spent minimal time helping to care for the children, so its finding that the children would not have looked to defendant for guidance, discipline, the necessities of life, and parental comfort during that time was not against the great weight of the evidence.

REAL ESTATE 89: RM had not included any language in the deed providing that the property was a joint tenancy with full rights of survivorship, the property instead became a tenancy in common.

RM drafted the deed without seeking counsel and mistakenly believed that, if either she or FK died, the property would fully pass to the surviving tenant. FK’s will provided that if his wife predeceased him—which she did—the personal representative of his estate should sell any residual property that he owned and divide the cash proceeds equally among his surviving children.

FAMILY LAW 83: A trial court can terminate a parent’s rights and permit a stepparent to adopt a child.

A trial court has discretion to terminate a parent’s rights and permit a stepparent to adopt a child when the conditions of MCL 710.51(6) are met. MCL 710.51(6)(b) requires the petitioner to establish that the other parent had the ability to visit, contact, or communicate with the children, and substantially failed or neglected to do so for a period of two years.

PROBATE 53: The trust agreement included an Incontestability Provision.

A settlor’s intent is to be carried out as nearly as possible. Generally, in terrorem clauses are valid and enforceable. However, a provision in a trust that purports to penalize an interested person for contesting the trust or instituting another proceeding relating to the trust shall not be given effect if probable cause exists for instituting a proceeding contesting the trust or another proceeding relating to the trust.

FAMILY LAW 82: Court stated it would terminate the personal protection order (PPO) after the parties present documentation of the initiation of the divorce proceedings.

However, the trial court concluded that these matters should, in fact, be in the province and the jurisdiction of the Family Division and in that respect, having issued a personal protection order, the Court stated it would terminate the personal protection order after the parties present documentation of the initiation of the divorce proceedings.

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