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FAMILY LAW 85: Defendant refused to co-parent with plaintiff and attempted to undermine her.

In 2010, the parties began a romantic relationship, but they never married. Over the course of the relationship, the parties had three children together. Defendant refused to sign the children’s birth certificates. The parties ended their relationship in 2017 or 2018, and plaintiff and the children moved out of the home that the parties and the children had shared. After the relationship ended, plaintiff primarily cared for the children, but she permitted defendant to have contact with them.

Paternity

In May 2019, the Department of Health and Human Services filed paternity complaints with the assistance of plaintiff and requested that a judgment of filiation be entered. The complaints alleged that defendant was the biological father of the children and that he had the ability to provide support to the children. Defendant acknowledged paternity over the children and requested that the trial court grant joint legal and physical custody, award equal parenting time, and calculate child support in accordance with the Michigan Child Support Formula (MCSF).

Interim Order (Sole Custody)

In October 2019, a referee entered an interim order, which granted plaintiff sole physical custody and granted the parties joint legal custody. Defendant, who claimed that he was unemployed, was granted parenting time and was ordered to pay a modest amount in child support.

When parents are unable to cooperate and make joint decisions, a trial court may be required to grant sole custody to one parent. However, the parents’ ability to cooperate is only one factor for a trial court to consider in determining whether to grant or deny a request for joint custody. The trial court must also consider the best-interest factors.

In this case, the record does not support that the parties would be able to work together for the overall best interests of the children. Defendant engaged in a variety of troubling behaviors during the proceeding, which included assaulting and belittling plaintiff in the presence of the children, taking HW out of state for several days without permission, and removing AW from school for undisclosed reasons. Despite plaintiff’s efforts, defendant refused to co-parent with plaintiff and attempted to undermine her and turn the children against her.

Evidentiary Hearing

After a three-day evidentiary hearing that took place between January and March 2021, the trial court awarded plaintiff sole custody after weighing the best-interest factors. The trial court did not conclude that any of the factors weighed in favor of defendant. Defendant was awarded parenting time. The trial court estimated defendant’s 2020 income to be $60,000, and defendant was ordered to pay $1,896 each month in child support.

When You Need to Protect Your Parental Rights

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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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