The Basics of Standards of Proof in Family Law Cases
Family law covers a variety of legal concerns, but is best known for covering issues like divorce, child custody, and so on. In these cases, there may be a need to present evidence, and the standards of proof can vary depending on the case.
Since Michigan is a no-fault divorce state, you will not have to provide any evidence in order to obtain a divorce. The only ground needed for divorce is a “breakdown of the marriage relationship to the extent that the objects of matrimony have been destroyed and there remains no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved”.
Proof of cheating, fraud, abuse, or other unsavory or illicit behavior could impact issues like division of assets, but divorce, in general, requires no proof or wrongdoing. When it comes to child custody, however, proof becomes much more important, especially if one or both parents are attempting to modify child custody in some way.
There are two basic standards of proof in such cases: clear and convincing evidence, and preponderance of the evidence. What do these standards mean?
Clear and Convincing Evidence
In terms of standards of proof, the call for clear and convincing evidence is much higher burden of proof, and is typically required in cases where an established custodial environment (ECE) exists and the noncustodial parent is attempting to modify the custody or parenting time order. In such cases, the evidence must show that a claim is “very highly probable”, and this is intended to deter parents from making unnecessary changes that would disrupt a child’s life.
For example, if a custodial parent decided to move to another city, the noncustodial parent might argue for custody modification to keep the child in the home city based on factors like separation from family, friends, school, and so on that might harm the child unnecessarily. However, the parent seeking to modify the custody arrangement would have to provide proof that these outcomes were “very highly probable”, and this is a difficult standard to meet.
Preponderance of the Evidence
This standard of proof requires only that a claim be “more likely than not”, and it is frequently used in cases where no ECE exists. In such cases, one parent or household has not been determined to offer greater stability than the other. It’s important to understand that an existing custody arrangement doesn’t necessarily infer an ECE with one parent or the other.
The Best Interests of Children
As in all cases of child custody, the best interests of the children are the guiding factor. If one parent is intent on modifying the custody arrangement, the best interests of children must prevail, whether the standards of proof required are clear and convincing evidence or preponderance of the evidence.
Whether a parent claims that moving or enrolling children in a new school district is in their best interests, or there are claims of abuse, for example, evidence must be presented to meet the burden of proof required in the case and show that the best interests of the children will be served by modifying the custody arrangement.
If you’re attempting to modify an existing custody arrangement, contact the qualified lawyers at The Gucciardo Law Firm today at 248-723-5190 or online for legal guidance and support.
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