St. Joseph Michigan Criminal Defense Blog

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Family Law

Consideration of Mother’s Wishes Overlooked in Key Decision

Family LawThe Michigan Court of Appeals has overturned a trial court’s decision to award paternal grandparents visitation with their grandchildren against the wishes of the children’s mother. According to the Court of Appeals, the original trial court did not show the appropriate level of deference to the mother’s wishes in establishing its decision. Working with an experienced family law lawyer in Berrien County is the first important step in ensuring your wishes are considered in a similar situation.

About the Case

The case was brought to court by the paternal grandparents of the children. The mother of the children was married to the plaintiff’s son, who passed away in 2012. When the mother decided she didn’t want the grandparents visiting with her children, the grandparents decided to take the issue to court and asked for grandparent visitation. The court eventually awarded the plaintiffs with designated visitation, claiming that there was “no reason whatsoever” to deny such time.

The mother appealed the case, stating that preventing children from visiting with their grandparents would not have a negative effect on the children’s well-being. While the original trial court’s decision was based on an idea of grandparenting being “good,” the appeal stated that no such precedent has been established and that the court abused its discretion in determining what was good for the children based on its own ideas about parenting.

Here’s appellate lawyer Liisa R. Speaker:

“The statute is very clear that a trial court cannot award grandparenting time unless the grandparents meet the burden of proving, at least by a preponderance, that there is a substantial risk of harm to the child in denying grandparenting time.”

The Court of Appeals sided with the mother, explaining that the trial court treated the case like a traditional divorce case and did not have any evidence to show that limiting access to the grandparents would harm the child. The Court of Appeals has now established that lay or expert testimony must be provided establishing negative consequence of blocking grandparent access in order for a similar decision to be made in the future.

Thus, it’s very important to work with a family law lawyer in Berrien County to ensure your case matches up with existing precedents and recent adjustments in the way laws are enforced. Decisions like this out of the Court of Appeals affect hundreds or even thousands of similar cases — it’s vital that you have an expert on your side to navigate the changing tides. For further information or to schedule a consultation please contact Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC at 269.982.1100 or visit www.pjjfamilyprobatelaw.com.

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Family Law

Moving Children Too Often Can Have Custody Consequences

Family LawThere are very specific rules related to the custody of children following a divorce. While the initial custody arrangements are usually handled as part of divorce proceedings, certain events can and should trigger a revisiting of the custody arrangement. If you’re currently dealing with custody problems, speaking with a family law lawyer in Van Buren County is the first step in ensuring your rights as a parent are protected.

For example, did you know that moving around with your children can be grounds for new custody proceedings?

About the Case

Consider this case out of the Michigan Court of Appeals: a man and a woman get married and have two children. They later divorce and are awarded joint legal custody, with the woman being granted primary physical custody. The woman then marries a man in the military, a circumstance that results in several long-distance moves for her and the children. The original husband then petitions the court for physical custody of the children due to the frequent moves.

The trial court declined the man’s motion on the grounds of finding “insufficient evidence” to revisit the custody arrangement. However, the Michigan Court of Appeals has elected to overturn this ruling and is now requiring a new custody hearing to establish new custody guidelines based on the current circumstances of the arrangement. In other words, the frequent moving of the primary physical custody holder was grounds enough to require that the custody issue be revisited.

There’s a lot of technicality to the case, as it rotates around a couple of core statutes in Michigan law. Essentially, the law dictates that the court revisit custody arrangements when one parent is planning a move. The woman involved received permission for her first move, but did not seek permission for the moves that followed. Because the statute does not exempt additional moves from existing legal obligations and because the mother was unable to provide legal precedent for her actions, the Court of Appeals is requiring a re-opening of the custody arrangement.

This does not necessarily mean that the woman will lose custody of her children, only that the custody arrangement will be revisited by a court. Working with an experienced and reputable family law lawyer in Van Buren County is the best way to ensure decisions like this do not catch you off-guard during a custody hearing and do not negatively impact your proceedings. For more information or to schedule a consultation with one of our prominent lawyers at Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC contact us at 269.982.1100 or visit www.pjjfamilyprobatelaw.com.

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