How The Court Defines “Domestic Violence” Could Impact Your Michigan Custody Case in the Future!

A judge's gavel

A recent Michigan Court of Appeals ruling on a custody case out of Monroe County has potential implications for other custody battles in future, where the issue of domestic violence comes up. Specifically, how the court defines ‘domestic violence’, and how that interpretation could affect the way you discipline your children or interact with their pets.

The case in question comes out of Monroe County:

A divorced couple from Monroe County had eight children, five of whom were still minors at the time the marriage ended. At the time of the 2014 divorce, the father was awarded sole physical custody of the five children, with legal custody being shared jointly between both parents. Two years later, in 2016, the mother moved to Ohio, and so both parties agreed that the father would have sole legal custody of the five children as well. It remained that way for two more years, and then in 2018 everything changed.

The mother petitioned the court for custody of the kids…

The mother filed for sole custody of the five children, citing concerns about the father’s ability to care for them properly. In her petition, she claimed that the father’s housing conditions were “cramped and unsafe”, and that in addition to denigrating her to the children, he was interfering with her ability to see and communicate with them. Although the father denied the mother’s assertions, he did admit that there had been a few one time occurrences where he had denied the children an opportunity to see or talk to their mother. In the end, nothing changed. So a year later she tried again.

When the first time didn’t work, she tried again a year later.

In 2019 the mother filed a second petition to have sole custody of the children transferred to her. This time, in addition to the alleged unsafe living conditions, the mother also claimed that the father had enrolled the children in an unaccredited school without consulting her, and was now threatening to cut off all contact between the mother and the children. But the biggest new issue was the mothers claim that the father had a history of domestic violence issues, and that the children were the victims!

This is where the case becomes an unprecedented situation for Michigan!

In every Michigan custody case, the Judge has to look at the issue of domestic violence, and whether or not the children have been witness to it. However in this case, the fact that the father was using a PVC pipe to spank the children was determined by the court to be a form of domestic violence on it’s own. He was also alleged to have harmed the children’s pets – a description that also falls under the definition of domestic violence in Michigan. And that was why in the end, the court awarded sole custody of the children to the mother.

This case was unlike any other in Michigan’s history!

Getting custody transferred from one parent to another is extremely challenging, so that alone makes this case singular. But the fact that physically disciplining a child was considered to be a factor in evaluating domestic violence is unprecedented. This was the first time our courts have addressed spanking a child as being a factor that could be looked at when evaluating the domestic violence custody factor in a custody battle. In the words of the Appellate Court, “We hold only that conduct which constitutes “domestic violence” within the meaning of the Domestic Violence Prevention and Treatment Act, necessarily constitutes “domestic violence” within the meaning of the Child Custody Act. ” 

Modifying child custody can be a challenging prospect in Michigan.

This is why, if you’re unhappy with your custody or visitation agreement, you need to call The Kronzek Firm at 866 766 5245 today. Our experienced child custody attorneys can help you figure out exactly what your rights are, and help you address your custody or visitation modification concerns. We have been helping parents all over Michigan for decades, and we can help you too. So if you miss your kids and want more time with them, don’t wait. We’re here to help.