By now, we have all heard about the child custody case in Sanilac County. A family court judge unwittingly awarded custody and parenting time to the rapist father of a minor child.
At first there was confusion about the case; now, the blame is going around. Judge Gregory Ross signed what he described as a consent judgment that awarded father Christopher Mirasolo joint custody of his son, now 9-years old, along with unspecified parenting time conditioned upon the consent of the mother.
Now that Judge Ross discovered Mirasolo’s previous criminal sexual conduct conviction, he rescinded the prior custody order. In doing so, he criticized the prosecutor for not advising him of all of the significant circumstances in the case.
When a mother receives public assistance, the county prosecutor files a support, filiation and custody case against the father. As Judge Ross noted in rescinding his prior order, these support cases usually are routine.
For her part, Mother’s lawyer asserts that mother never signed the original order therefore, she did not actually provide consent to the joint custody award. Mom’s lawyer claims the prosecutor railroaded mom on the so-called consent judgment. Now, the mother is calling for the resignation of both the judge and the prosecutor.
Child Custody has been in the news a lot over the past six-months. Just how do family court judges determine custody?
The Child Custody Act provides 11 statutory factors that a judge must consider when deciding a child custody dispute. The 11 “best interest” factors require a judge to consider each factor relative to the best interests of the child.
Certainly, the fact that the father was convicted of raping the mother [and also has a second rape conviction] is a major consideration in the custody determination. In this particular case, however, the judge claimed he did not know these facts about father.
In our family court system, judges do not conduct their own investigations. Rather, judges rely on the litigants to supply them with the facts and legal argument in support of their respective positions.
Here, the prosecutor apparently had some discussion with the mother which led to an understanding that mother was ok with joint custody. Also, the prosecutor included some typically unspecific parenting language: dad can see the child only by mutual consent; if Mom did not agree to parenting time, it would not occur.
Initially, Mom did not have an attorney. Only when Mom cried foul after the entry of the initial judgment and hired a lawyer did this matter blow-up.
Mom’s request for and receipt of public assistance triggered the involvement of the county prosecutor. The county prosecutor was involved in order to secure child support payments from the father.
While often routine, child custody matters can take on a life of their own; just ask Judge Ross.
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