By now, you’ve probably learned that Michigan’s courts aim to award child custody according to your child’s best interests. And you may have learned about the different factors the court reviews. But as it reviews them, how does the court judge these factors?
How does the court measure the “love, affection, and other emotional ties” you have with your child? This is, after all, the first factor the law cites in determining your child’s best interests. And the next? It’s your “capacity” to show love and affection and raise your child well. How can the court judge these things?
12 things a custody evaluator considers
If you take your custody claim to the court, the court may send a custody evaluator to observe you with your child. The custody evaluator makes recommendations to the court based on each of the factors the law addresses in your child’s best interests. In other words, this observation may be one of the most important tests you’ll ever face. Yet, few people even know what the questions are.
The good news is that the questions are freely available. Michigan’s 2018 Custody and Parenting Investigation Manual sets the standards for custody evaluators as they look at each factor. As evaluators measure your “emotional ties” and the “love, affection, and guidance” you give your child, they look at:
- Signs your child may favor one parent
- Which parent your child approaches to share his or her questions, worries and joys
- How you respond to your child’s questions and interruptions
- Signs either parent is interfering with the other parent’s relationship
- Which parent provides the more effective discipline
- The strengths and weaknesses of your parenting style
- The ways you show your love to your child
- Your involvement with your child’s education
- Your involvement in your child’s religious upbringing
- Whether you keep your child on a reasonable daily routine
- How you spend quality time with your child outside the necessary routines
- The quality of the food and shelter you provide
Most people don’t ace their school tests without studying. Your custody evaluation is generally more important than any school test. So, how can you “study”?
The truth is that knowing the questions and knowing the answers are two different things. A skilled family law attorney can help you review your answers. Then, you can make note of the interactions you have with your child that support your case. Good documentation is usually helpful. Great documentation is even better.
Plan for success
You love your child. You know what type of parent you are. With good planning, you can better help the evaluator see the whole picture.