If you are a Michigan parent involved in a family law dispute, you may hear about Friend of the Court and wonder exactly what it is. Friend of the Court is a service that assists the court with custody, parenting time or child support disputes.
What does Friend of the Court do?
The main purpose of Friend of the Court is to help parents resolve their issues without the need for court intervention. Friend of the Court investigates each parent’s situation and makes recommendations to the parents and to the court on potential resolutions.
Friend of the Court may sometimes request parents to engage in alternative dispute resolution. This is typically done through mediation, with a Friend of the Court worker serving as a mediator.
You may choose to not attend mediation if you do not believe it will help you reach a resolution with your co-parent. Mediation is not usually required if there are allegations of domestic violence, child abuse or neglect or you believe your health or safety would be jeopardized.
Does Friend of the Court issue court orders?
Friend of the Court does not have the power to issue a court order. They may only make custody or child support recommendations to a judge.
If you do not agree with a Friend of the Court recommendation, you may file an objection to it with the judge hearing your case. However, judges take Friend of the Court recommendations seriously, and there is usually a deadline to object. Therefore, it may help to have representation from a family law attorney, even if you are using the Friend of the Court service.
You are not required to use Friend of the Court and may opt out of the service. However, if you and your co-parent cannot come to an agreement, your disputes are heard by a circuit court judge and are subject to the judge’s decision.
After your order is entered
Friend of the Court may stay involved in cases after orders are entered, helping make sure orders are enforced. If your co-parent refuses to return your child to you for your custody time, or stops paying child support, you can file a complaint with Friend of the Court, and they will begin the enforcement process.
There are many benefits to using Friend of the Court. They can provide helpful advice and guidance on your specific situation.