Response to House Bill 4691
by: Suzanne Coats, Turning Point CEO

House Bill 4691 proposes changing Michigan custody decisions to a presumption of joint physical legal custody and equal parenting time as the starting point for all custody cases. The bill moves the current custody decision framework of “best interest of the child” to best interest of the parent. The proposed law would require “clear and convincing evidence” to negate any assumption of parental concern about their child’s safety and wellbeing.

HB4691 does not take into account the complexity of domestic violence, and the danger many victims and their children face after leaving. This bill will increase court costs and legal fees for custody battles, which many domestic violence survivors simply cannot afford.

Turning Point agrees that joint custody is ideal for many families but it is risky to assume this would work best for everyone.

This proposed legislation assumes that joint custody is in the best interest of all children and that simply is false. We see children in our counseling program traumatized by forced visitations with their abuser affecting their academic and emotional health and stability. Domestic violence abusers often use custody and visitation arrangements as a way to continue stalking and controlling the victim, exposing the family to more danger. This policy creates another legal obstacle for domestic violence survivors trying to leave their abuser and creates a wide and long-range opportunity for the abuser to continue their battering. We urge the public and our lawmakers to stop this bill from becoming law.