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What Is an Established Custodial Environment in a Child Custody Case?

 Posted on December 23, 2020 in Divorce

Oakland County divorce attorney child custody

Whether they are planning to get a divorce, are unmarried, or wish to make changes to existing arrangements, parents will need to address a variety of legal issues during a child custody case in Michigan. When making decisions about these matters, a family court will consider what is in a child’s best interests, and multiple different factors may also be taken into consideration. One of the most important of these factors is the child’s “established custodial environment,” which will affect whether changes should be made to existing child custody arrangements.

Established Custodial Environment Under Michigan Law

When creating a new child custody order or determining whether to make modifications to an existing order, a court will look at any existing factors that affect a child’s environment and his or her relationship with parents or others who serve in a parental capacity. A custodial environment may be established if, over an “appreciable” amount of time, the child has developed a relationship with a parent or another person in which he or she looks to the custodian for guidance and support and receives discipline and instruction, and the custodian provides for his or her needs and offers “parental comfort.” 

Determining whether an established custodial environment exists will usually depend on the permanency of the relationships between parents and children. Factors that may be considered include the age of the child, the physical environment where a parent or custodian has provided care for a child, and the feelings of both the parent and the child regarding the nature of their relationship.

An established custodial environment may involve one or both of a child’s parents. In many divorce cases, both parents will have been involved in raising their child, and to preserve custodial relationships, the parents will share custody of their child, and the child will have reasonable amounts of parenting time with each parent. However, an established custodial environment may involve a situation where a child primarily looks to one parent for guidance and support, and child custody orders will likely reflect this by awarding primary custody to that parent. If a parent or another party seeks to modify child custody in a way that differs from the established custodial environment, he or she will need to provide clear and convincing evidence that this change would be in the child’s best interests.

Contact Our Oakland County Child Custody Lawyers

If you are looking to establish a child custody agreement during your Michigan divorce, or if you wish to make changes to an existing child custody order, you will need to understand how your child’s established custodial environment will play a role in these matters. At Elkouri Heath, PLC, we can help you determine the best way to approach these issues, and we will work to protect your child’s best interests throughout the course of your case. Contact our Novi, MI family law attorneys at 248-344-9700 to set up a free consultation today.




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