1. How do I get an order for custody?
A petition requesting the Court to grant custody of child(ren) must be filed with the Court. If both parents agree and sign an agreement (stipulation and consent agreement), that agreement, if approved by the Court, may be entered as a custody order.
2. How do I change an existing order for custody?
A petition to modify a custody order must be filed with the Court, or the parents can sign a written agreement changing custody (stipulation and consent agreement), which if approved by the Court, will change custody.
3. Do I need to have an attorney to get custody?
It is not required that you have an attorney to file a petition for custody. However, there are many complicated issues involved in a custody case and therefore attorney representation may be desired. The Friend of the Court cannot file a petition for custody in a party's behalf.
4. Is there any way the Court can assist us in reaching an agreement on custody?
The Friend of the Court is required to provide Domestic Relations Mediation. Mediation is a process where a neutral third party assists in voluntarily settling a custody dispute. Both parties must agree to participate in this process.
5. Are there different kinds of custody?
Yes, a number of custody arrangements are possible. The most common are:
Joint Custody—Joint custody means an order of the Court in which one or both of the following are provided:
a. The child(ren) live with one parent part of the time and with the other parent part of the time.
b. The parents both share in making decisions on important issues dealing with the children.
Sole Custody—An order of the Court which states that the child(ren) live with one parent and that parent is responsible for making decisions on important issues dealing with the child(ren).
6. After a petition for custody has been filed, and we cannot reach our own agreement, what does the Friend of the Court have to do?
The Friend of the Court is required to: a) Offer mediation services to the parties; b) Conduct an investigation and file a written report and recommendation to the Court based on the factors listed in the Michigan Child Custody Act.
7. Do I have the right to receive a copy of the Friend of the Court report and recommendation on custody?
Before the Court custody recommendation, the Friend of the Court must provide to each party or their attorney a copy of the report, recommendation and any supporting documents or a summary of the documents prepared or used by the Friend of the Court.
8. What will happen if I have an order for custody and the other parent does not return the child to me as stated in the Court order?
There are several options: a) Contact the Friend of the Court and request enforcement of theorder. Contact an attorney; b) Contact the Prosecuting Attorney and request that a kidnapping charge be started if there is reason to believe that the other parent intends to keep the child.
9. Does the Friend of the Court have a responsibility to investigate alleged abuse and/or neglect of a child?
Allegations of abuse or neglect should be reported to the Protective Services unit of the Department of Social Services office. The Friend of the Court has a responsibility to conduct an investigation when a party files a parenting time or custody petition and the matter is referred to the Friend of the Court. Allegations of abuse or neglect should be communicated to the Friend of the Court during the investigation/evaluation process.
1. My parenting time order states I have "reasonable visitation rights or reasonable parenting time". What does this mean?
This means the parents have the responsibility for setting up a mutually agreed upon schedule for parenting time, which is reasonable under the circumstances. If the parents cannot mutually agree to a visitation schedule, the following options are available: a) Contact the other party to see if they will agree to mediation; b) Contact the Friend of the Court and request the Friend of the Court file a petition with the Court to change the order to require a specific schedule; c) File a petition or contact an attorney to help file the petition.
2. I have a specific parenting time schedule that I need to change. What can I do?
If a temporary change in the parenting time schedule is necessary, contact the other parent to discuss making other arrangements. If a permanent change is necessary: a) See if both parents can agree to a change (stipulation and consent agreement); b) The Friend of the Court can provide mediation services, if both parties agree to participate; c) File a petition with the Court for a change in the order or contact an attorney to help file the petition.
3. If the payor of child support is not making regular child support payments, do I have to allow him/her to have parenting time?
Yes, parenting time and support are separate orders of the Court, with separate enforcement procedures (see Enforcement section).
4. The other party is not following the parenting time order. What can I do?
File a written complaint with the Friend of the Court office. If the Friend of the Court determines that either parent has violated the parenting time order, they have the responsibility to proceed with enforcement (see Enforcement Section).
5. The other parent is not sending or returning clothing or other personal items for our child. Is there anything the Friend of the Court can do?
The Friend of the Court follows the written Order of the Court. Unless the Court order states each parent’s responsibility for clothing, the Friend of the Court does not have any enforcement power.
6. Do I have to let my children go for parenting time if it appears that the other parent has been drinking or using drugs?
That is the custodial parent's decision. If the decision is made to deny parenting time in these circumstances, be prepared to explain to the Court at a contempt hearing why the decision was in the best interest of the child(ren).
7. I am concerned about the other parent discussing changes in the Court orders with the children. What can the Friend of the Court do?
Unless the Court order forbids such discussions, the Friend of the Court has no enforcement power.
8. The Friend of the Court has refused to enforce my visitation order. What can I do?
The law requires the Friend of the Court to enforce parenting time orders. If the Friend of the Court refuses to comply with the law you have a right to file a grievance regarding their procedures.
9. I have a parenting time order, and my teenage child does not want to come for parenting time. What can I do?
The parents of the child(ren) are bound by the Court orders. However, one or more of the following may be considered: a) See if a different parenting time arrangement with the child(ren) and the other parent can be worked out; b) File a petition with the Court requesting a change in the parenting time order; c) Request that the Friend of the Court enforce the parenting time order (see Enforcement section).
1. How do I get an order for support?
A petition requesting the Court to grant an order for support must be filed with the Court. If both parties agree and sign an agreement (stipulation and consent agreement), that agreement will be entered as a support order if it is approved by the Court.
2. Do I need to have an attorney to get an order for support?
An attorney is not required in order to file a petition for support in a divorce action. However, an attorney may be helpful when filing papers and following specific rules. For paternity and family support actions, the Prosecuting Attorney can assist with the filing of a petition for support.
3. Does the judge have to use the Child Support Guideline or the Friend of the Court recommendation when setting support orders?
The Child Support Guideline and the Friend of the Court recommendation are used to assist the judge in making a decision concerning support amounts. The judge does not have to follow the Friend of the Court recommendation or guideline when making a final decision.
4. If I have been paying my child support and the custodial parent is not allowing visitation, do I have to keep paying support?
Yes, visitation and support are separate orders of the Court, with separate enforcement procedures (see Enforcement section).
5. The non-custodial parent is not paying support. What can I do?
Contact the Friend of the Court and request enforcement if the back support equals payments of four weeks or more. An attorney may be contacted to file an enforcement action.
6. The payer of support is self-employed and not making his or her support payments. What can the Friend of the Court do?
Income withholding orders are not usually effective when a payer is self-employed. In these cases, the Friend of the Court may seek enforcement using one or more of the following options: a) Petitioning the Court for a show cause hearing; b) Submitting the payer's name for tax intercept; c) Filing a lien on the payer's property d) Contact the Friend of the Court office for further information concerning these options.
7. My Court order states that I am to pay support through the Friend of the Court Office. Can I pay the support to the custodial parent directly?
Not without changing the Court order. Support is paid through the Friend of the Court in order that an official record of payments is maintained. To credit payments made directly to the custodial parent, a Court order must be obtained that directs the Friend of the Court to credit your account for a specific amount.
8. If child support has been ordered by the Court and either parent has a major increase or decrease in income, what can be done?
The Michigan Child Support Guideline requires the Friend of the Court to consider both parents’ income when making child support recommendations. If either party has had a large increase or decrease in income, they may wish to contact the Friend of the Court to request a review of the support order. If both parties can mutually agree to a change in the support order, and both sign a written agreement (stipulation and consent agreement), that agreement will be entered as an order, if approved by the Court.
9. Does the Friend of the Court have the right to deduct statutory service fees from a child support payment?
Michigan Court Rules provide that the Friend of the Court may deduct unpaid fees from any support money paid after the fee is due (January 2nd and July 2nd of each year).
10. If I am receiving public assistance, do I still get child support?
No, all child support payments paid while receiving public assistance must be sent by the Friend of the Court to the Department of Human Services. However, if the payer is making payments, the payee is entitled to receive from the Department of Human Services up to the first $50.00 of any child support paid each month. Please contact the local Department of Human Services support specialist for more information.
11. Is the Friend of the Court responsible for making sure that child support money is being spent on the child?
The law does not give the Friend of the Court the right to question how child support payments are spent.
1. My order states that I cannot move my children from the state of Michigan without approval of the Court. How do I get the Court's approval?
If the parties mutually agree to a change of domicile and they sign a written agreement (stipulation and consent agreement), it will be entered as an order, if approved by the Court. If the parties cannot mutually agree on a change of domicile, they have the following options: a) Contact the other party to see if he or she will agree to mediation; b) File a petition or contact an attorney to help file the petition. (**Notification to the Friend of the Court or filing a petition does not allow a party to move from the state, prior to a Court order being entered).
2. Why won't the Friend of the Court enforce what the Judge said in Court, even if it is not in the written order?
The Court speaks through it's written orders, therefore, the Friend of the Court enforces only the written orders. If a party feels that the written order is incorrect, they may want to order a transcript of the hearing from which the order was established. If they find that the order does not agree with the transcript, bring the concerns to the attention of the person who prepared the written order and request a change. A party can also file a motion with the Court asking the Court to correct the written order.
3. Can the Friend of the Court enforce the property settlement provisions contained in my Judgment of Divorce?
The Friend of the Court enforces custody, visitation, and support orders. The Friend of the Court does not have the power to enforce property settlement orders.
4. What is a Friend of the Court Referee and what can they do?
A Referee is a person who holds heairng and takes testimony and reports to the Court. A Referee can be either a Friend of the Court or an attorney employed by the Friend of the Court. The Chief Judge of a Circuit Court may appoint a Referee to hear any domestic relations matter. A hearing before a Referee is not the same as a hearing before a Judge. The findings of a Referee are only recommendations to the Court, and are not final. These recommendations will become an Order of the Court if neither party files an objection. State law requires that any written report and recommended order made by a Referee must be given to the parties and their attorneys before the judge takes any action on the recommendation. If a party disagrees with a Referee's recommendation, he or she has the right to a hearing before the Court. This hearing must be requested in writing within 21 days after receiving the Referee recommendation (request for a hearing on an income withholding order must be made within 14 days). Contact the Friend of the Court Office for the address to which the written request for a hearing should be sent.
5. What can the Friend of the Court do to find a missing parent?
The state and federal government have set up a parent locating service that can be used to: a) Locate a parent to collect child support; b) Locate a parent for deciding or enforcing a child custody matter; c) Locate a parent in cases of parental kidnapping. The Friend of the Court, Prosecuting Attorney, and Department of Human Services support specialist can ask to use this service. The full name, date of birth, social security number, and last known address of the parent to be located is required.
6. What happens to my child support order and any support that may be owed when children are adopted?
Adoptions take place in Probate Court. The Friend of the Court must be provided copies of all Probate Court adoption orders. The child support order stops when children are adopted. The Friend of the Court is required to collect all support owed at the time of the adoption. Contact the Friend of the Court to arrange to pay all money owed.