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Trial court erred in relying solely on referee's findings, and denying plaintiff opportunity to testify at custody hearing

The court held that the trial court erred by relying solely on the referee's findings of fact and not allowing plaintiff to present testimony at the de novo review hearing. The FOC referee granted the parties joint legal custody and the plaintiff-father primary physical custody. Parenting time was to be as agreed on between the parties. Plaintiff filed objections and defendant petitioned for a specific parenting-time schedule after plaintiff refused to allow her any time. The referee then granted defendant two eight-hour visitations per week. On appeal, the court rejected plaintiff's argument that defendant was "collaterally estopped from requesting joint legal custody after her unfitness as a parent was already established at a prior proceeding." The prior child protective proceedings were dismissed. Further, defendant "merely requested that the circuit court in these proceedings enforce the same parenting-time schedule that had previously existed. Therefore, collateral estoppel did not preclude the trial court from awarding joint legal custody." It also rejected his claim that MCL 722.27a(3) is unconstitutional because "it does not provide adequate deference to 'fit' parents in requiring them to prove by clear and convincing evidence that parenting time with the other parent will cause physical, mental, or emotional harm to the child." Plaintiff asserted that defendant was unfit per se because she voluntarily terminated her parental rights to an older child of hers after the child suffered a life-threatening injury. The court noted that "although terminating one's parental rights most certainly involves evaluating his or her fitness to be a parent, nowhere in the statute does it indicate that termination of one's parental rights renders that parent permanently unfit." Also, "'[n]othing in the statute or the CCA generally suggests that parental fitness is a prerequisite to entitlement to the parental presumption in MCL 722.25(1).'" The court rejected his argument that MCL 722.1006 is unconstitutional because it grants initial custody to the mother in all situations without considering the child's best interests, finding the statute "does not impinge on parents' fundamental rights in the care, custody, and management of their children." Finally, the court agreed with plaintiff that the trial court clearly erred in relying solely on the referee's findings of fact and not allowing plaintiff to present testimony at the de novo review hearing. He "disputed the referee's factual findings that the parties could cooperate and generally agree and that defendant was capable of making important decisions regarding the child in his objection." He also objected to the referee's findings that they were equal as to several of the statutory best interest factors and the referee's failure to score factor (k). Reversed and remanded.

Antenuptial agreement held to be valid and enforceable

The court held that the parties' antenuptial agreement was valid and enforceable, concluding that to invalidate it on the basis of one party's fault would contravene the agreement's clear and unambiguous language, and that as a matter of law, the...

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