An established custodial environment is one of the primary factors used in child custody disputes. It is used to determine what type of custody the custodian should get over the child. This is important because it allows the courts to objectively figure out if one of the custodians is more of a parental figure to the child. The courts can also determine if one of the custodians is unfit to raise the child, and many other factors that will be discussed below.
The state of Michigan has determined that “The custodial environment of a child is established if over an appreciable time the child naturally looks to the custodian in that environment for guidance, discipline, the necessities of life, and parental comfort. The age of the child the physical environment, and the inclination of the custodian and the child as to permanency of the relationship shall also be considered” (MCL 722.27(1)(c)). It’s easy to see that there are many factors that the court must look into when deciding if there is an established custodial environment and from what it encompasses why it is so important for child custody. There are however some misconceptions about custody orders and how custodial environments are established.
One of the misconceptions is that a previous custody order automatically creates an established custodial environment. However, this is not the case and the custodial environment will be reviewed by the court regardless of any previous custody order. This is important for many people trying to change their custody due to their belief that either they have established a custodial environment or the previous one has changed in such a way that it may no longer be relevant.
Out of all the factors listed above, one of the most notable is that for there to be an established custodial environment, there needs to be stability in the relationship between the custodian and the child. If there is not a stable relationship, a previously established custodial environment can be revoked. The case of Hayes v Hayes, 09 Mich App 385, 532 NW2d 190 (1995), is a good example of a custodial environment being destroyed. This happened due to the many changes in physical custody and the uncertainty created by the custody trial. From this example it is easy to see how difficult child custody disputes can be and how damaging they can be to a family. If you are going through a child custody dispute or have questions pertaining to your current custody order, it is recommended that you contact an experienced family law attorney in your local county.