Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
While trial courts may consider psychological evaluations and, in their discretion, afford them the weight they deem appropriate in accord with the Michigan Rules of Evidence, psychological evaluations are not conclusive on any one issue or child custody factor. The ultimate resolution of any child custody dispute rests with the trial court, as the Child Custody Act, MCL 722.21 et seq, requires a circuit court to determine independently what custodial placement is in the best interests of the children.
Plaintiff father challenged a divorce judgment entered by the Kalamazoo Circuit Court that awarded sole legal and physical custody of the couples' child to defendant mother, arguing that the circuit court erred by failing to implement and adopt the Friend of the Court's psychological evaluation, which recommended joint legal and physical custody, and that an award of sole custody was not in the child's best interests.
Was the circuit court bound to adopt the psychological evaluation which recommended joint legal and physical custody of the child?
The court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court, holding that although the circuit court could consider the psychological evaluation, the evaluation was not conclusive, and the ultimate resolution of any child custody dispute rested with the circuit court pursuant to MCL 722.21. While the evaluation recommended joint custody, the circuit court determined that the father's attempts to control the child and his refusal to permit the child to have contact with his mother until the circuit court ordered him to do so warranted an award of sole custody to the mother. Further, the circuit court did not err in balancing the best interests factors under MCL 722.23. Because the father had a history of drinking to excess and because alcohol use was the type of conduct that had bearing on how one functioned as a parent, the circuit court did not err in considering the father's alcohol use in evaluating his moral fitness under MCL 722.23(f). Further, where the father attempted to interfere with the mother's parent-child relationship with her son and where there had been at least one incident of domestic violence perpetrated by the father against the mother, MCL 722.23(j) and (k) supported an award of custody to the mother.