In this article, I will discuss factor (d). This factor is pretty straightforward, but when there is an associated problem with this factor, the problem will draw the attention of a reviewing family law court. Please visit my other articles in this series on my blog.
The Text of MCL 722.23(d)
“As used in this act, “best interests of the child” means the sum total of the following factors to be considered, evaluated, and determined by the court: (d) The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity.” MCL 722.23(d).
Questions to Ask Related to Best Interest of the Child Factor (d)
The factors look at the child’s home with the parent. The Court is interested in home life stability and whether the environment is satisfactory. Children thrive in a continuous, stable, and predictable environment. Which parent has changed residents and why? Have the people in the child’s home life changed frequently? Has one of the parents moved due to evictions, foreclosures, or a breakup with a significant other? Has one parent moved from place to place with the child? Are there factors causing the instability or inability to stay settled? Factors such as erratic behaviors that cause a job loss or eviction, an underlying substance abuse problem by the parent, is the parent just moving from one relationship to the next? Never forget, this is a comparison between the two parents. Which parent has the ability and has maintained the more stable household for the child?
When this factor becomes very important to a child custody case.
Many parents, particularly after a divorce or the end of a long relationship, go through a period of instability. Frequent moves, from one apartment to the next, are expected. People need time to reorganize their lives. But if this instability continues for years, that’s when this factor becomes more and more important. Children, as they mature, also grow tired of the instability. When children reach the appropriate maturity level to express their frustration, believe me, they will speak up. So the longevity of a parent’s inability to settle into a home is something that a reviewing family law judge will consider.
Finally, when one parent can’t maintain a stable home life, frequent moves, frequent changes in the child’s school, many changes in the boyfriends or girlfriends who act as caregivers, and there is measurable harm to the child, you can bet on a family law judge making this factor front and center in a custody dispute. In other words, if you can tie harm to the child from the unstable parental home, then this factor becomes really important. Some examples, the child’s loss of interest in an activity due to an abrupt move. A child’s grades or school participation drop after a move, or a parent’s breakup with a partner the child respected. These are instances where an attorney or co-parent can make the argument that they need custody because the other parent can’t keep a stable home life for the child, and it’s harming the child.
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