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3 Helpful Tips for Success in Domestic Cases Involving Children

This article offers three tips that may serve as key difference makers between success and failure of the goals in domestic cases with children.

When I am waiting in court for my clients’ cases to be heard, I have found it best to use these waiting periods as learning experiences.  I love to watch the cases ahead of mine and look for insight into the judges’ or referees’ preferences.  Based on my understanding of the law and my practical observations as a family law attorney, I have learned some strict “do’s” and “do not’s” in cases with children.  This includes cases involving custody, parenting time, and child support.

In this article, I offer three tips that may help advance a positive image to the judge or referee in a domestic case involving children. They can even serve as key difference makers between success and failure.  Not only do these tips apply to parents representing themselves, but also to domestic attorneys who might otherwise steer their clients in the wrong direction.

(1) When in front of the judge in a case involving a child, never refer to your child as “my child.”  Instead refer to the child as “our child.” 

First, common sense indicates that it is indeed both parents’ child, and not just the child of one person.  Second, and more importantly, a judge does not want to see that a parent is trying to use the case to destroy the child’s relationship with the other parent.  The judge is already starting off with the presumption that it is “in the best interests of the child to have a strong relationship with both of his or her parents.”*  Furthermore, the law rewards parties on their “willingness and ability…to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent….”**

By simply referring to the child as “our child,” you are impliedly acknowledging to the judge that you respect the law and the other parent’s relationship with child and are seeking only to do what is best for the child. 

(2) Always carefully monitor Friend of the Court (FOC) child support calculations. 

In most cases involving child support, the judge will refer your matter to FOC workers to conduct an initial child support calculation.  It is not uncommon for FOC workers to develop a child support recommendation based on merely inputting minimal income and parenting time information into a software program.  Sometimes this process outputs ridiculous, unrealistic child support obligations because the software does not take into account all of the practical implications relative to support.  Depending on the circumstances, if you do not object to the FOC’s calculation within a specified period, it can become a binding child support order.  Such an order can take an incredible amount of time and money to correct. 

The key is to ALWAYS closely monitor child support calculations and ALWAYS make sure they are in compliance with the Michigan Child Support Formula (MCSF).  Software outputs are NOT mandatory under the law, but the MCSF is!  Currently, Michigan follows the 2008 Michigan Child Support Formula.  The 2008 MCSF Manual is available at the following website:

http://courts.michigan.gov/scao/resources/publications/manuals/focb/2008MCSFmanual.pdf

It should be noted that, effective January 13, 2003 Michigan will follow the 2013 MCSF Manual.  The 2013 MCSF Manual is available at the following website:

http://courts.michigan.gov/scao/resources/publications/manuals/focb/2013MCSF.pdf

(3) Make sure that you properly frame your request when asking for more overnights with the child.

I have said it before, and will say it again; the less you ask for, the more you get!  By requesting a change of “custody,” you typically must face a very strong burden of proof and a very high standard of evidence.***  However, if you can instead successfully frame your matter as a request for a change of “parenting time” you will face an easier burden of proof and lower standard of evidence.****

Sometimes it is not about the content of your request, but instead about the image of your request; a classic case of “form over function.”  I.e., you can ask the court for the same number of overnights in both instances, and lose your case when you frame it as a request for a change in “custody,” but win your case if you frame it as a request for change in “parenting time.”  The Michigan Court of Appeals has made clear that the same normal life change factors inadequate to warrant a change in custody are exactly the types of considerations that family courts should consider when addressing requests for changes in parenting time.*****

END.

 

* MCL 722.27a. 

** MCL 722.23(j). 

*** MCL 722.27; Vodvarka v. Graysmeyer , 259 Mich App 499, 513-514; 675 NW2d 847 (2003); Duperon v Duperon, 175 Mich App 77, 437 NW2d 318 (1989).

**** Shade v Wright, 291 Mich App 17, 28; 805 NW2d 1 (2010); Pierron v Pierron, 486 Mich 81, 93; 782 NW2d 480 (2010).

***** Shade v Wright at 29-30.

 

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Please note that the above blog article shall not constitute legal advice.  Accurate legal advice should be given on a case-by-case basis as its accuracy is relative to the particular facts of the given matter.

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Founder of Guardian Law, Anthony A. DeMatteis, is an attorney who concentrates in the area of Family Law.  Mr. DeMatteis promotes peaceful, constructive resolutions in domestic matters.  He practices in Macomb, Oakland, Wayne, and Livingston Counties.  His office and contact information is as follows:

Guardian Law
Law Office of Anthony A. DeMatteis, Esq.
14630 East Nine Mile Rd.
Eastpointe, MI 48021

(586) 662-1207; or
(586) 354-8616
anthonydematteis@gmail.com
guardianlaw24@gmail.com

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Geoff Hoffman September 09, 2012 at 02:53 PM
This is just another thinly veiled advertisement for his law firm. It should be listed as an advertisement and he should have to pay the Patch for an ad.

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