A Lombardo Hearing resolves disputes over Legal Custody decisions by Parents

In all family law actions involving a minor, Michigan courts are required to make a custody determination. Many times the custody determination involves joint legal custody between the parties (who are the parents). There are occasions where sole legal custody is granted to one party or the other, however, there are particular concerns and complications that can come about when the parents share legal custody.

Joint legal custody requires the parties to work together on issues such as healthcare, education, religion, and legal residency. While many times parents can agree on what actions to take regarding the upbringing of their child, there can often be disagreements regarding how to handle a particular issue in the upbringing of the child. If the parties are unable to agree on a course of action, they often require the court overseeing their family law case to make a decision as to which proposed action is in the child’s best interests. A hearing on these various legal decisions is often called a “Lombardo Hearing”, after the case of Lombardo v. Lombardo, 202 Mich. App. 151, which is considered the standard for a court making decisions on disputes regarding courses of action in raising a child.

A Lombardo Hearing is an evidentiary hearing aimed at determining which course of action is in the child’s best interests. During the hearing, both parties provide evidence and testimony regarding their proposed course of action, and any deficiencies they find in the other parties’ proposed course of action. The court, in reviewing the evidence and proposals of the parties in a Lombardo Hearing, must reference the same child custody factors used to make custody decisions. However, with a Lombardo Hearing, the court reviews the child custody factors only as they regard the particular courses of action that are before the court. Therefore, if the parents disagree as to which school to send their child to, the court reviews the child custody factors only as it relates to the parent’s proposed schools.

There are a couple of other factors that need to be addressed as part of a Lombardo Hearing determination. In particular relation to school districting, physical custody can be part of the determination. If one party has primary physical custody, that can be a basis for determining where a child’s school district is, which makes reviewing and addressing who has primary physical custody very important in a family law matter. Additionally, the burden on the party seeking to change the current course of action may differ. Another concern is whether there is an Established Custodial Environment. An Established Custodial Environment is where the child has been in a particular set of circumstances, whether it be schooling, legal residency, or parenting time, for a period of over 6 months.

If there is no Established Custodial Environment, or if the court finds that the proposed changes would not change the child’s Established Custodial Environment, then the party seeking the change needs to show that the change is in the child’s best interests by a preponderance of the evidence. This is preferable to there being an Established Custodial Environment, as if there is an Established Custodial Environment, the party seeking the change would need to show the same by clear and convincing evidence. This burden of proof is much higher than the preponderance of the evidence standard.

In any case where parents that share joint legal custody can’t agree to a course of action regarding their child, knowing how to address the disagreement is important. If you are facing a legal custody issue, the Grand Rapids Law Group, PLLC looks forward to helping you resolve it.

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