Judge Rules to Terminate Parental Rights in Detroit Freezer Case

Parental rights

How is custody decided in Michigan?

How is the best interest in the child determined?

The custody over the surviving children of Mitchelle Blair was decided this week.

Mitchelle Blair is the mother who killed two of her four children. The bodies of her children were found in a deep freezer this past March during an eviction. She was sentenced to life in prison after she confessed to killing both 13-year-old Stoni Blair and 9-year-old Stephen Berry.

Parental Rights Terminated

When pleading guilty to the charges, Mitchelle Blair said the following alarming statement to the court according to Michigan Live.

“I don’t feel no remorse for the death of them demons.”

Wayne County Circuit Judge Edward Joseph ruled that it was in the best interest of both children to terminate parental rights for Mitchelle Blair.

The parental rights of the boy’s father, Stephen Berry, were also terminated. According to the Detroit Free Press, Berry walked out of the courthouse with a disappointed look on his face and said nothing to reporters.

The parental rights of Alexander Dorsey, the father of Stoni Blair and a surviving 18-year-old daughter were not terminated. In the article by the Detroit Free Press, the reasoning behind keeping Dorsey’s parental rights intact is because the Judge believes it is in the best interest of the child.

If Dorsey’s rights had been terminated the child would only qualify for services until she reached the age of 19. The Detroit Free Press reported:

“By keeping the father’s parental rights intact, she remains a temporary ward of the court, and the court will be able to provide services with respect to college, teaching her to live independently and therapy and trauma treatment until she is 20, Joseph said.”

The Detroit News revealed that a child trauma expert said that while observing a session between Dorsey and his daughter, his daughter does not want a relationship with him.

Child trauma expert, Dr. James Henry, said that both children will need a lot of therapy. In the same article, the Detroit News reported Dr. Henry saying that constant terror the surviving 9-year-old boy experienced has created problems with his neurological development. The surviving daughter told Dr. Henry that she feels guilty because she could not protect her siblings from being murdered by their mother.

How is the Best Interest for the Child Determined?

Not every child custody case is so clear. Many custody cases are difficult.

You might have notice a term being used in this article and others like it. The term is “best interest for the child”. There are 12 factors that the State of Michigan have put into place to help determine the custody of a child.

The “Best interests of the child” as defined by the Michigan Legislation website are:

  • (a) The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parties involved and the child.
  • (b) The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to give the child love, affection, and guidance and to continue the education and raising of the child in his or her religion or creed, if any.
  • (c) The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care or other remedial care recognized and permitted under the laws of this state in place of medical care, and other material needs.
  • (d) The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
  • (e) The permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes.
  • (f) The moral fitness of the parties involved.
  • (g) The mental and physical health of the parties involved.
  • (h) The home, school, and community record of the child.
  • (i) The reasonable preference of the child, if the court considers the child to be of sufficient age to express preference.
  • (j) The willingness and ability of each of the parties to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent or the child and the parents.
  • (k) Domestic violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed against or witnessed by the child.
  • (l) Any other factor considered by the court to be relevant to a particular child custody dispute.

For help in understanding these factors, you may like to read:

If you are facing a child custody battle and have questions, please give my office a call today.