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

In this case, Petitioner-mother and respondent-father were married for approximately 4½ years. In 2013, petitioner gave birth to a son, NH. Five months after respondent filed for divorce in 2016, petitioner gave birth to a daughter, EH. The consent judgment of divorce entered March 20, 2017, gave the parties joint legal custody of the children, but awarded petitioner physical custody. The parties agreed to a flexible parenting-time arrangement. Respondent-father was also ordered to pay $220 monthly in child support.

Petition to Terminate Parental Rights

Petitioner met her now-husband, ZT, the same month that the divorce was finalized. The couple moved in together and eventually married. In February 2020, petitioner and ZT asked respondent if he would agree to ZT adopting NH and EH. Respondent refused. A year later, petitioner and ZT filed petitions in the current actions to terminate respondent’s parental rights and to permit ZT to adopt the children.

In their petition, petitioner and ZT alleged that respondent had not provided the financial support required by court order. They further asserted that respondent had not visited, contacted, or communicated with the children in the previous two years.

Evidentiary Hearing

At an evidentiary hearing, respondent admitted that he had not paid child support as ordered. Respondent also admitted that he had not visited with the children during the relevant two-year period from May 6, 2019, to May 6, 2021.

Even had petitioner completely blocked respondent’s access to the children (which the record does not substantiate), respondent still had the ability to visit, contact, or communicate with the children. The divorce judgment gave respondent the right to visit the children according to an alternative schedule in the event the parties could not agree on to reasonable parenting time. Respondent insisted that he did not believe the court could help him as he and petitioner had opted out of the Friend of the Court system.

Terminate Parental Rights

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.

Despite having the ability to visit his children by making even a minimal effort to enforce the divorce judgment or simply by mailing the children presents and cards, respondent last saw his children on February 3, 2019, and last spoke with NH sometime in April 2019. Accordingly, there is no factual dispute that respondent has regularly and substantially failed or neglected to visit, contact, or communicate with his children for the requisite two-year period.

Assistance With Custody

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MICHIGAN PROBATE 57: Brother granted permanent guardianship of siblings.

At a multiday hearing to address the extension of the guardianship, the eldest children, the mother’s relatives and friends, and school personnel testified regarding the mother’s care of the children, appellant’s treatment of and interaction with the children, and the eldest siblings’ role in aiding the mother to raise the children.

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.

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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