Ninth Judicial Circuit Court
FRIEND OF THE COURT HANDBOOK - ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION
If you are a party to an action and have a dispute that you cannot resolve between you and the other party or parties, you are encouraged to participate in alternative dispute resolution.
Typically, when parties go to court, the Judge, based upon available evidence and according to law, makes decisions affecting their family. Parties often feel that going to court and having a Judge make the decision results in a sense of loss, because someone not directly affected by the outcome makes decisions. Alternative dispute resolution places the responsibility for settling issues upon parties, without the direct involvement of the court. Alternative dispute resolution may involve parents, grandparents, and even third parties. The decision-making power remains in the hands of people who have a personal interest in, and knowledge of, that family, and not with the Judge or another third party.
You may contact an attorney or the FOC office to determine the types of alternative dispute resolution methods available in your area. Some are listed below.
Alternative Dispute Resolution may include:
Friend of the Court Domestic Relations Mediation: By law, the FOC is required to offer formal mediation services whenever there is a dispute regarding custody or parenting time. Mediation provides parents with the opportunity to communicate, cooperate, and, with the assistance of a neutral third party, resolve any disputes regarding custody or parenting time. The Kalamazo County Friend of the Court/Ninth Circuit Court may contract with specific agencies or indidviduals for the provision of these services.
If you have a dispute regarding custody or parenting time that you cannot resolve you are encouraged to contact the FOC and participate in mediation.
Participation in FOC domestic relations mediation of custody or parenting time is voluntary. Both parties must be willing to participate. If you reach an agreement, the mediator can put it into writing. You may review this agreement with your attorneys. If both parties agree, the agreement will be put in the form of a court order, signed by the Judge, and entered with the court clerk.
Matters discussed during a formal mediation are confidential. A FOC employee who acts as a mediator in your case cannot share information about what happened during mediation, except for the signed agreement reached. In addition, a FOC employee who acts as a mediator in your case cannot enforce or investigate any issues regarding your case.
Court Rule Domestic Relations Mediation: The court may refer family matters to mediation under the provisions of MCR 3.216. This referral may occur when the parties agree to mediation, upon written motion of one of the parties, or upon the direction of the court.
Parties must attend the mediation sessions and may be accompanied by their attorneys. Any information shared with the mediator is considered privileged and the mediator may not disclose this information during any future proceedings or at trial.
If an agreement is reached during mediation, that agreement must be reduced to writing and signed by the parties and their attorneys. The parties must take necessary steps to have the mediation agreement entered as an order of the court.
If no agreement is reached during mediation, then within 21 days, the mediator must prepare a report to the parties, their attorneys and the mediation clerk summarizing the essential facts and include any recommendations on issues. Unless the parties resolved a custody issue during mediation the mediator may not make a recommendation on custody.
If both parties accept the mediator's recommendation, the parties must take necessary steps to have the recommendation entered as an order.
If either party rejects the mediator's recommendation, even in part, the case will go to a hearing. The court may not take the mediator's report and recommendation into consideration at the hearing.
An individual who performs Court Rule Domestic Relations Mediation is entitled to charge a reasonable fee for this service. These fees are usually split equally between the parties.