Friend of the Court plays a pretty important role in all Ingham, Clinton and Eaton County divorces. They are like the ‘eyes and ears’ of the Circuit Court Family Division here in Michigan. When it comes to custody and parenting time cases, their job includes providing assistance to help the court in two major areas. One of those jobs is to provide oversight in situations where the court itself can’t personally supervise. This includes things like court-ordered visitation and custody agreements. But it also means providing recommendations for how the court should rule when it comes to custody and to parenting decisions.
For example, in all divorces with minor children, the Friend of the Court office is tasked with gathering data about that family. The next step is usually having them schedule an investigative or conciliation conference with both parents. The goal of that conference (called a Facilitative Information Gathering Conference, or FIGC) is speaking to the parents to gather information they use to comprise an opinion about custody, parenting time / visitation and child support in each case.
The Friend of the Court then makes recommendations to the Judge about child support, child custody, and visitation in each particular case. And while a judge will always have the final say, FOC does have the initial ability to sway a judge in a particular direction, either by presenting findings that casts situations in a certain light, or by making recommendations that go against one parent or the other. Either way, there is sometimes a lot of friction between divorcing parents and FOC.
The more conflicts there are, the more Friend of the Court gets involved
Although the Friend of the Court is usually going to end up being involved in some way no matter what, the more conflict there is between you and the other parent during the divorce, the more likely FOC is to be involved. At the start, they’ll conduct an interview with you, your spouse, and even your children. They’ll ask about your schedules, living arrangements, finances, and anything else they think may affect your ability to parent your children properly in the future. The Friend of the Court is required to do an analysis of the 12 “best interest of the child” factors spelled out in our Michigan law.
From there, they may try to help you work out an agreement regarding your custody, or maybe even your child support and parenting time, depending on what you’re struggling to agree on. But if you and the other parent aren’t able to agree on something, FOC will make a recommendation to the judge based on what they believe is best. And it might not line up with what you, or even your spouse, thinks is best.That’s one of the very important reasons we try to work with our client, when possible, to settle a case out of court. Sometimes that works and other times it doesn’t.
You don’t have to handle this alone (and you shouldn’t!)
If you have questions about the Friend of the Court, or how they may affect your custody case, you can go to their webpage which explains in detail what they do and the services they provide. However, if you have questions or concerns about your divorce, including custody, visitation, or child support, call The Kronzek Firm at 517-886-1000. There are many, many pitfalls for the unprepared in court system. Don’t be a victim. Hire an experienced custody attorney to fight the battle for you and with you.
Our experienced family law attorneys can help you figure out a solution that works for your family. Whether you live in Holt, Lansing, Howell, Dewitt, Charlotte or the Jackson area, we’ve helped countless parents just like you work through their divorces and achieve positive parenting outcomes during the last 25 years. We can help you too.