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A Better Partnership
August 20, 2015

COA affirms custody, child support, and attorney fee decisions in custody battle

In Reimer v. Johnson, No. 321057, the parties, who had never been married, had a four-year-old child. The parties’ relationship began to deteriorate after their child was born, and the father filed a custody suit.  After a 19 day trial, the court awarded shared physical custody, joint legal custody, ordered the father to pay child support to the mother, and ordered the father to pay both his attorney fees and a portion of the mother’s.
 
On appeal, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that the trial court properly weighed the best interest factors contained in MCL 722.23, and properly found that both parents could care for the child and provide the child with love and affection. The court also held that the trial court did not err in providing for parenting time with the father to gradually increase over time. Since gradual changes are contemplated in the original order, the gradual changes do not constitute a modification or amendment that would require a change in circumstances. The Court of Appeals held that child support was properly calculated and the trial court did not err in excluding depreciation taken by the father’s LLCs, nor by declining to deviate downward from the guidelines. The court also affirmed the award of attorney’s fees, approving of the trial court’s method of creating a “war chest” of a total amount of attorney’s fees and dividing them between each party in proportion to their income.

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