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Michigan Supreme Court rules on custody issue

Michigan child custody attorneys are mulling the latest decision from the state's supreme court, which recently handed down a ruling on Michigan's "one parent" doctrine. Last week, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the doctrine was unconstitutional.

The underlying case came from Jackson County. A father there argued that the state unconstitutionally deprived him of his right to parent. The father has three children, and shortly after the last child's birth, the baby tested positive for drugs. The court found that the children's mother was unfit to parent, but then removed the children from the father's care as well. But, unlike the mother, the father was never found to be unfit, and he brought his case to the Jackson County Circuit Court.

The one parent doctrine prevented the father from getting legal custody of his children. This law was established 70 years ago, and now the state supreme court has determined that it is unconstitutional. The court's 5-2 decision stated that the law allowed a court to deprive one parent of his or her fundamental right to care for or have custody of the child and, therefore, the law violates the 14th Amendment's due process clause.

The court acknowledged that while the state has a legitimate interest in looking out for the welfare of young children, parents also have a fundamental right to be parents. Those two interests must be balanced and the court decided that the Michigan law did not strike the right balance.

Although parents may have a fundamental right to parent, with that right comes responsibility. A parent may often be required to pay child support to provide for the basic and necessary needs of a child. A child custody or child support determination is frequently the result of a divorce or separation and an attorney can provide representation and guidance during that process to make sure that the arrangement works for the parents and children involved.

Source: CBS Detroit, "Supreme Court Rules Michigan's One Parent Doctrine Unconstitutional," June 3, 2014

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