Facilitative Information Gathering Conferences (FIG Conference)
In order to better assist divorcing couples with the process, the Friend of the Court will provide alternative dispute resolution (ADR) services to the people of Eaton County. The process of ADR will begin at the time the divorce action is actually commenced.
When the Complaint for Divorce is filed with the court, the Friend of the Court will be notified, and they will make contact with each of the parents. This initial contact will be to advise the parents that they are required (by court order) to appear at the Friend of the Court office on a specific date and time, to meet with a Friend of the Court Investigator. This person, a highly trained court professional, will meet with the parents in an effort to resolve initial problems surrounding the divorce. This meeting is called a Facilitative Information Gathering Conference (also called a FIG Conference, for short).
Purpose of the Facilitative Information Gathering Conference (FIG Conference)
One of the primary purposes of the FIG Conference will be to help the parents create a temporary order covering areas such as custody, parenting time, child support, and any other areas that might need to be addressed at that point in time.
The FIG Conference is often the first opportunity the parents have had to discuss important topics surrounding their relationship since the parties separated. The Facilitator will control these discussions in order to keep the parents on track, and will assist them by offering solutions to various problems that they may have encountered.
The FIG Conference process is essential to making your case as stress-free as is humanly possible. If the parties fail to show up for their scheduled FIG Conference, their divorce may be delayed. If there are issues of domestic violence involved in your case, please advise the Friend of the Court as soon as possible so that alternative scheduling will be done such that the Facilitator may meet separately with each of the parties.
Facilitator’s Recommended Orders & Investigations
If the parents are unable to reach agreements regarding these issues, decisions may be made for the parents by the Facilitator. This is called a Recommended Order, which will become an order of the court. Either parent has a right to object to those decisions and may do so by filing an objection of the Facilitator’s Recommended Order within 21 days of the judge’s signature.
The Facilitator may also choose to request an investigation regarding certain issues of the case, depending on the information provided by the parties. If this option is used, the parties will be contacted by a Friend of the Court Investigator sometime after the Facilitator requests the investigation.
What to Bring to the FIG Conference
When the parties appear for the Conciliation Conference, they will be requested to bring recent documentation regarding their earnings. This will be in the form of their most recent income tax return, W-2 statement, and recent paycheck stubs. This information will be used to evaluate such areas as child support and/or spousal support. It is very important that these documents be provided to the Friend of the Court.
Presence of Attorneys
Attorneys are encouraged to attend and participate at all ADR processes, including the FIG Conference. The Friend of the Court believes ADR processes best function in an informal and nonadversarial manner. No advance written notice is required if a party desires that his or her attorney attend an ADR process, such as the FIG Conference.