Generally speaking, family courts in the greater Detroit area are going to prefer that both parents spend as much time as possible with their children and are involved in their children’s lives. Also, the preference is for the two parents to cooperate on important decisions for their children.
These are normally good goals in a custody proceeding, but when one parent has accused the other of domestic abuse, courts may have to set these goals aside in order to avoid putting the children, or one of their parents, in a dangerous situation.
Courts can consider evidence of domestic violence
Michigan law requires judges making custody and parenting time decisions to consider evidence of domestic violence. The definition of domestic violence is broad. For one, the child does not have to have witnessed it.
Furthermore, it can include behavior beyond physically attacking another person. Threats, intimidating behavior, and other verbal and emotional abuse may also qualify.
Importantly, it is not necessary for a parent to face a criminal charge or even have contact with the police. Courts can consider evidence even based on the report of a therapist or only the victim’s word.
If a court determines that domestic violence is an issue, it has the authority to take steps against the perpetrator so as to protect the victim and the children. The court may decline to award joint custody to a perpetrator and may even require supervised visits.
A court may enter a protection order
Like other states, Michigan allows victims of domestic violence to seek out protection orders against their alleged perpetrators without filing criminal charges.
These orders can complicate custody and visitation cases since one parent may not be allowed to be near or contact the other parent.
Mediation may not be appropriate in a domestic violence case
Many family lawyers and even judges are fond of mediation as a way of resolving child custody issues.
In most cases, mediation is a way to get parents working together for the good of their children. Also, it tends to save time and money that otherwise would get spent in the courtroom.
However, when a couple’s relationship has been marred by domestic violence, sitting the couple down to get them to work out an agreement could be an opportunity for abuse to continue. A domestic violence victim concerned about traditional mediation should speak to their attorney about other options.