e-Journal Summary

e-Journal Number : 77255
Opinion Date : 04/07/2022
e-Journal Date : 04/21/2022
Court : Michigan Court of Appeals
Case Name : Keinath v. Keinath
Practice Area(s) : Family Law
Judge(s) : Per Curiam – Gleicher, K.F. Kelly, and Patel
Full Text Opinion

Divorce; Custody; Established custodial environment (ECE); Distinguishing Bofysil v Bofysil; Statutory best-interest factors (MCL 722.23); Factors (a)-(b), (d)-(f), (h), & (j)-(k); Fletcher v Fletcher


Holding that the trial court did not clearly err in finding the parties’ children had an ECE only with plaintiff-mother, or in its findings on the statutory best-interest factors, the court affirmed the divorce judgment that awarded primary physical custody of the children to plaintiff. As to the ECE, unlike the case on which defendant-father relied, Bofysil, “here both parties worked outside the home and maintained separate bank accounts throughout the marriage.” Further, the court stressed there “that the parents, while occupying distinct roles in the home, both provided ‘security, stability, and permanence’ for the children.” In this case, plaintiff had “been primarily responsible for the children since fall 2020 such that they primarily look to her for security and guidance.” Turning to the MCL 722.23 factors, as to (a), it was undisputed “defendant had weaker emotional ties to the children,” and he offered only speculation that their disrespect for him originated from plaintiff. As to (b), the record showed he stopped attending their “doctor’s visits and school conferences and events. While he blames COVID-19 and plaintiff’s actions for his lack of involvement, the pandemic did not impede” her involvement. Turning to (d), while both parents “recognized the possibility of needing to relocate following the divorce, defendant’s testimony established a near-certainty of relocation, while plaintiff’s goal was to keep the marital home where the children had lived consistently for years.” As to (e), the court held that “the trial court’s finding that plaintiff had a more permanent family unit was not against the great weight of the evidence.” Turning to (f), in contrast to Fletcher, the children in this case “were aware of defendant’s affair, at least to the extent that he had a new girlfriend and, later on, was having a child with her.” Further, on several occasions one of the children “reacted negatively to defendant having his girlfriend around.” As to (h), his “reliance on his involvement with the children before the parties’ separation and on being allegedly forced from the marital home” was unpersuasive, and plaintiff’s uncontested testimony established that he refused to pay for one child’s counseling. Thus, “it was not against the great weight of the evidence for the trial court to rely on defendant’s lack of involvement over the prior year and likelihood of moving out of the community to conclude that” this factor favored plaintiff.

Full Text Opinion