In this case, the parties share joint legal custody of SG, and plaintiff is SG’s primary physical custodian. Plaintiff resided in Gwinn County while defendant resided in Ishpeming. Under the custody order governing at the time of the relevant proceedings, defendant had parenting time every other weekend.
Motion for Change of Custody
Defendant filed a motion for change of custody in which he alleged that plaintiff was not properly caring for SG, that plaintiff was allowing others to care for SG, and that SG, who was about to attain school age, and should attend school in Ishpeming. Plaintiff filed a motion in which she requested that the court determine where SG would attend school and argued that she should attend Gwinn schools which are near plaintiff’s home.
A referee recommended that plaintiff’s motion be granted, and that defendant’s motion be denied. Following a de novo hearing, the court affirmed the referee’s decision.
Proper Cause or Change of Circumstance
In a child custody dispute, a custody order may only be modified for proper cause shown or because of change of circumstances. Defendant argues that the trial court erred by denying his motion for change of custody without conducting an evidentiary hearing concerning whether he could establish proper cause or a change of circumstances.
Although the threshold consideration of whether there was proper cause or a change of circumstances might be fact-intensive, the court need not necessarily conduct an evidentiary hearing on the topic. In this case, to the extent there were factual disputes, the court accepted defendant’s allegations as true and determined that they were not legally sufficient to satisfy the standard.
No Evidentiary Hearing Required
Specifically, the court concluded that defendant’s allegations that plaintiff was not properly grooming SG and that she was having unexplained diaper rashes, if true, did not rise to the level of proper cause or change of circumstances. Defendant also argued that SG’s attainment of school age was a change of circumstances; however, the fact that a child has grown old enough to attend school is a normal life change.
Assistance With Custody
It is important to remember that decrees regarding child custody are not always final. Circumstances change all the time, which is why it is possible to seek a post-decree modification.
Our family law attorneys at Aldrich Legal Services have helped countless family law clients across southeast Michigan, including in Wayne, Washtenaw and Oakland counties, receive modifications that more fairly meet their needs. Contact us at our law firm in Plymouth. We can help you determine your chances of receiving a modification.