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Varnum Wins Appellate Decision in Family Law Dispute

May 4, 2022

Varnum prevailed in the Michigan Court of Appeals (COA) recently with a unanimous decision that vacated orders from a Wayne County Family Court matter that began over two years ago.

Varnum litigator Sam Vitale successfully represented the appellant in the matter, stemming from a 2021 decision in which the plaintiff was awarded legal full custody of the parties’ two children. The plaintiff had moved to modify a 2015 custody order on the grounds that it favored the defendant and that the defendant was often not present during his parenting time due to his employment. The trial court granted full legal custody to the plaintiff.

On the appeal, Vitale successfully argued that a working parent’s employment status should not be used against them in a custody decision. The court agreed and vacated the trial court’s orders. The COA decision determined the trial court erred in determining that proper cause or change of circumstances existed to warrant review of the existing custody order and that the plaintiff failed to meet her burden that the proposed custody arrangement was in the children’s best interest.

Vitale was gratified by the victory for his client.

“The trial court had relied heavily on the fact that our client was a working parent,” Vitale said. “We were able to show the defendant cannot be faulted for maintaining a job and relying on family members to provide childcare while he was at work.”

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