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A Better Partnership
October 24, 2013

Reinstatement of parenting time was a palpable abuse of discretion given parent's "abhorrent, abusive behavior"

In the child custody case of Sturgis v. Sturgis, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that the trial court “committed a palpable abuse of discretion” when it determined that it was in the children’s best interest to reinstate the defendant’s parenting time.  The Court noted that although it generally affirms parenting time orders, in this instance the case record—showing, among other things, the defendant’s “abhorrent, abusive behavior” and criminal sexual conduct convictions—led the Court to conclude that a strong likelihood of abuse or neglect during parenting time existed.  As such, the Court held that the trial court’s findings were against the great weight of the evidence and reversed the trial court’s decision.  However, the Court ruled that the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it determined that the plaintiff should file a petition for termination of the defendant’s parental rights in the juvenile section of the family division of the circuit court.  In affirming the trial court’s decision, the Court reasoned that even though the trial court had clear authority to handle the matter on its own, its decision not to do so was “not legally erroneous.”

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