Ninth Judicial Circuit Court
FRIEND OF THE COURT HANDBOOK - CUSTODY QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
1. HOW DO I GET AN ORDER FOR CUSTODY?
A petition must be filed asking the court to grant you custody of your child. Both parents must agree and sign an agreement (stipulation and consent order). That agreement, if approved by the court, will be entered as a custody order.
2. HOW DO I CHANGE AN EXISTING ORDER FOR CUSTODY?
A petition must be filed and a hearing held before a custody order can be changed. However, a hearing is unnecessary if the parents sign a written agreement changing custody (stipulation and consent order) that is approved by the FOC and the judge.
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. You may file your own petition, known as a Pro Per or Pro Se petition. The FOC will provide you with forms and instructions if you wish to file a custody motion without having an attorney. However, the judge will require you to follow the same court rules that an attorney must follow. There are many complicated issues involved in a custody case. Therefore, you may want to have an attorney represent you. The FOC may not file a petition for custody for you or provide you with an attorney.
4. IS THERE ANY WAY THE COURT CAN ASSIST PARTIES IN REACHING AN AGREEMENT ON CUSTODY?
The FOC provides domestic relations mediation. Mediation is a process whereby a neutral third party assists in voluntarily settling a custody dispute. Both parties must agree to participate in this process. The court may order parties to receive counseling.
5. CAN MY CHILD ENROLL IN THE SCHOOL DISTRICT I LIVE IN EVEN THOUGH THE CHILD LIVES WITH THE OTHER PARENT MOST OF THE TIME?
Michigan law provides that a child may enroll in a school district where either parent resides; without regard to which parent has custody. If a child regularly resides in two school districts as a result of a joint custody order, the child may attend school in either or both districts.
6. AFTER A CUSTODY PETITION HAS BEEN FILED, IF WE CANNOT REACH OUR OWN AGREEMENT, WHAT CAN THE FOC DO?
If the court refers you to the FOC, the FOC will:
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. The Kalamazoo County Friend of the Court/Ninth Circuit Court may contract with specific agencies or individuals for the provision of these services.
7. DO I HAVE THE RIGHT TO RECEIVE A COPY OF THE FOC REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON CUSTODY?
Yes. Before the court takes any action on a FOC custody recommendation, the FOC 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 FOC.
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?
You have several choices; you may contact:
a) The police to assist you.
b) The prosecuting attorney and request that a kidnapping charge be pursued if you have reason to believe that the other parent intends to keep the child. The prosecuting attorney acts only on police reports; therefore, you must go to the police first.
c) Your attorney for assistance.
d) The FOC and request that they enforce your order by taking action to bring the issue back before the court.