Frequently Asked Questions

Custody

How do I get an order for custody?

Retain an attorney, or on your own behalf (in pro per), file a motion to establish custody and parenting time.

How do I change an existing order for custody?

Either with the assistance of an attorney, or acting on your own behalf (in pro per), if there is a material change in circumstances, or good cause, file a motion with the Circuit Court clerk to modify custody.

Does the Friend of the Court have a motion packet for change of custody?

Yes. The custody and parenting time motion packets (forms) may be obtained from the Friend of the Court Receptionist on the 6th Floor.

The other parent and I agree on a change of custody. Can the Friend of the Court help us obtain an order?

Not typically. You may obtain a pro per motion packet (forms) as indicated above. You must file a motion to modify custody even if you and the other parent agree to the change. Both parties must appear before the Court or Friend of the Court Referee to place their agreement on the record, during which time the Court, or the Referee, will examine the best interests factors contained in the Child Custody Act. If the parties agree on each and every aspect of custody, parenting time and child support they may contact the parenting time JSO to obtain consent forms which must be completed in full. Child support must be in compliance with the Michigan Child Support formula.

Can I ask the Friend of the Court for a custody investigation?

No. The Friend of the Court can only respond to the court order directing them to investigate the issue of custody.

Are there different types of custody?

Yes. There is Joint Legal, Sole Legal, Joint Physical, Sole Physical and combinations of the preceding.

I have an order granting me custody, but the other parent will not return the child. What should I do?

You may contact your Friend of the Court Parenting Time Judicial Service Officer to request an order to show cause for failure to return. You may further elect to retain an order or appear on your own behalf (in pro per) to file a motion for immediate return. If your custody order is clear, you may also contact the local police department to assist you.

Parenting Time

My parenting time order indicates I have reasonable parenting time rights. What does that mean?

Reasonable parenting time is a legal term of art. Quite simply, it means whatever is reasonable between the two competing parties. There are a number of parenting time schedules which would equate with reasonable rights of parenting time, such as alternating weekends. However, without a specific parenting time schedule, it is virtually impossible to enforce denial of reasonable rights of parenting time. The Macomb County Family Court has adopted a reasonable parenting time schedule which can be readily enforced. If you have difficulty operating under a reasonable rights of parenting time theory, it is suggested that a motion be filed to specifically delineate the non-custodial parties' parenting time.

If the non-custodial party is not making child support payments, do I have to allow parenting time?

Yes. As parenting time and support are separate parts of a court order with separate enforcement procedures.

The other party is violating our current parenting time order. What can I do?

File a written complaint with the Friend of the Court. You may either send it by mail or bring it in person to the Friend of the Court to discuss your issues. If the Friend of the Court believes the parenting time order has been violated, they will start enforcement action.

My parenting time order needs to be changed. What can I do?

You may file a motion on your own or by obtaining a petition packet through the Friend of the Court, or you may contact an attorney to file a motion on your behalf. The Friend of the Court is obligated to continue enforcing the existing parenting time order until it is changed.

Does the Friend of the Court have petition packets for parenting time?

Yes. You may obtain a petition packet at the Friend of the Court. However, the Friend of the Court cannot give you legal advice as to how to file a motion.

Do I have to let my children go for parenting time if it appears the other party has been drinking?

This is your decision as a parent. If you deny parenting time in such a situation, you may have to explain to the Court, at a "show cause"hearing why you felt your decision was in the best interest of your child(ren).

Does the Friend of the Court investigate alleged abuse and/or neglect of the child(ren)?

No. Alleged abuse or neglect should be reported to Children's Protective Service unit of your local Department of Human Services offices.

Child Support

How do I obtain or modify an order for support?

A motion asking the Court to order or modify child support must be filed with the Court. If both parties agree to establish or modify support at the amount shown by the formula, they may sign an agreement. Once that agreement is put in the form of an order, signed by the judge, and filed with the County Clerk, it becomes an order of support. Additionally, once every 3 years a party may submit a written request to the Friend of the Court to obtain a review of support.

What is a Friend of the Court support petition packet?

If you wish to modify your child support without benefit of an attorney, you may appear at the Friend of the Court and obtain a support petition packet. The petition packet contains forms that will allow you to motion the Court in pro per for a modification of your current support order. Should you choose to motion the Court on your own, the Friend of the Court cannot provide legal advice or assistance.

What is the child support formula?

The child support formula provides the Friend of the Court direction when they are ordered by the Court to make a recommendation regarding child support. The Friend of the Court, when making a recommendation and the judge when making a determination must use the child support formula. Deviating from the formula may occur when there is a justifiable reason why using the formula is inappropriate. A deviation from the formula must be placed on the record by the Court.

If the custodial parent is not allowing me to see my child, do I still have to pay child support?

Yes. Parenting time and child support are separate parts of a court order with separate enforcement procedures.

If the non-custodial parent is not paying child support, what can I do?

Contact the Friend of the Court for enforcement if the back support equals at least one month of past due payments. Your complaint should be forwarded to your Judicial Service Officer either in writing, by phone, or you may appear in person at the Friend of the Court between the hours of 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday.

How are the child support payments distributed if the non-custodial parent on the file has more than one obligation?

Distribution is a federally prescribed formula for determining how to apply payments to the various support accounts. Distribution rules require current child support owed be paid first. If the non-custodial parent has more than one case, and has paid less than the current support owed the system will look at all the non-custodial parent's open cases and allocate the payment among the cases proportionally.

Can I send child support payments directly to the custodial parent?

Not without changing your court order. Support is paid through the MiSDU in order that an official record of payments is maintained. If you want credit for payments made directly to the custodial party, you must obtain a court order that directs the Friend of the Court to credit your account for the specific amount.

How can I opt out of Friend of the Court services?

An order exempting a case from Friend of the Court services may be sought only after a judgment has been entered. The order to exempt case from FOC services must include a signed Advice of Rights Form. An order can be obtained only through motion of the Court.

The custodial parent is not spending the child support payments on my child(ren), what can you do?

The law does not give the Friend of the Court the authority to verify how child support payments are being spent.

The non-custodial parent on my file is self-employed and not making child support payments, what can you do?

Income Withholding Orders may not always be effective when the payer is self-employed. In these cases, the Friend of the Court may:
  • Motion the Court for contempt of Court (Show Cause Hearing).
  • Submit the payer for an Income Tax intercept.
  • File a lien on the payer's real or personal property.
  • Motion the Court for a Cash Performance Bond to be posted by the payer to guarantee future payments are made.
  • Report the payer to Consumer Reporting Agencies.
  • Motion the Court for suspension of Professional License or Driver's License.

What do I do if I have an order to pay support and I become unemployed?

If you have lost your job due to reasons beyond your control, you may be eligible for a temporary reduction in your support. It is extremely important you immediately appear at the Friend of the Court and provide proof of your unemployment, as well as any pending benefits you may be eligible for. The Friend of the Court may be able to file a Petition for Adjustment of Support Arrearages (PASA) on your behalf that would allow for a temporary reduction in your child support. The Friend of the Court will not change the permanent Order but may give you credit for the difference in the permanent and the temporary reduction you are ordered to pay. Any temporary reductions can only be effective the date the PASA is filed. It is imperative you report to the Friend of the Court immediately.

There is a bench warrant for my arrest, what should I do?

You must come into the Friend of the Court and see a Judicial Service Officer between the hours of 8:00 AM and 4:30 PM, Monday through Friday. Our office will not handle a bench warrant over the phone.

I disagree with the arrearages reflected on my account, can I get an accounting?

Yes. The Friend of the Court will prepare one (1) accounting per year on each account. Once the accounting is completed and mailed to you, you should review it against your records. If you disagree with the results, please contact the number provided. If the issues cannot be resolved over the phone, it may be necessary for you to schedule an appointment with the Account Clerk to go over your account in detail.

The non-custodial parent has left the State of Michigan and is not paying support, what can I do?

After we have exhausted all of our local civil remedies and we are still unable to secure compliance with the Court Order, our office will proceed with interstate enforcement. Before we proceed there must exist a current bench warrant for the arrest of the non-custodial party for non-support and there must be a recently verified address for the non-custodial parent.

Medical

What is a National Medical Support Notice (NMSN)?

The NMSN is a notice sent to an employer, ordering the employer to enroll the minor child(ren) on the health care insurance if the premiums do not exceed reasonable cost as defined by the Consumer's Credit Protection Act.

I have medical bills I have incurred for my minor child(ren). How do I receive reimbursement from the non-custodial party?

The Friend of the Court will assist in the reimbursement of the minor children's uninsured healthcare expenses. It will be necessary to obtain the reimbursement forms from the Friend of the Court Office, and follow the procedure explained on the Medical Program Information sheet.

What is the ordinary healthcare supplement?

Each child support order issued or modified after October 1, 2004 will include an amount that the non-custodial party will pay each month toward "ordinary uninsured healthcare expenses"incurred on behalf of the minor child(ren). This will assist the custodial party in paying for the minor child(ren)'s health expenses as they are incurred. The custodial party may not seek reimbursement from the non-custodial party for the "extraordinary uninsured healthcare expenses", until the ordinary healthcare amount of $289.00 per child has been met annually.

Smile Program

What is the SMILE program?

SMILE (Start Making It Livable for Everyone) is a two-hour educational program for separating/divorcing parents with children under the age of 18. It is sponsored by the Macomb County Circuit Court Family Division and the Friend of the Court, and is facilitated by Community Assessment Referral and Education (CARE). Parents who have a pending divorce in Macomb County receive a letter signed by their assigned judge inviting them to the next SMILE presentation. SMILE is an educational opportunity for parents to learn ways to make the separation/divorce experience less painful for their child(ren). It is also an opportunity for parents to learn about resources in their community that can help their child(ren) through this difficult time. Further information may be obtained by calling CARE at (586) 541-00033, or by visiting the CARE web-site at www.careofmacomb.com.

Miscellaneous

I would like to move my child(ren) out of the State of Michigan, what should I do?

Parties may agree to a Change of Domicile by signing an agreement. Once this agreement is put into the form of an Order, signed by the Judge, and filed with the County Clerk, it will become an Order of the Court. If you and the other party cannot mutually agree upon a Change of Domicile, you may (a) contact the other party and see if they will agree to mediation, or (b) file a motion on your own, or have an attorney file a motion for you.
Notifying the Friend of the Court, or filing a motion, does not allow you to move your child(ren) from the State of Michigan. You must obtain a court order granting this change prior to moving from the state.

Can the Friend of the Court enforce a property settlement contained in my Judgment of Divorce?

The Friend of the Court is required to enforce custody, parenting time, and support provisions of orders. The Friend of the Court lacks power to enforce property issues. The Court has the ability to enforce its own order; therefore, you may file a motion with the Court if there is a need for property settlement enforcement.

I just moved to Michigan, but I already have a support order from another state. How do I get the payments to come through the Friend of the Court?

You must obtain a referral from the State of Michigan's Office of Child Support, a division of the Department of Human Services. You may contact them by calling 1-866-540-0008.

How do I change my address with the Friend of the Court?

You can change your address with the Friend of the Court by mail, facsimile (fax), or by personally appearing at the Friend of the Court. All change of address requests must include your signature.

What is a Friend of the Court Referee and what can they do?

A Referee is an Attorney who hears motions, holds hearings, examines witnesses, and makes recommendations to the Court.

A Referee can either be the Director of the Friend of the Court or an Attorney designated by the Chief Circuit Judge.

The Family Court Bench may direct a Referee to hear any domestic relations actions, except an increase or decrease in spousal support (alimony).

A Referee hearing is different then a Court hearing. The findings of a Referee are Recommendations to the Court, and are not final. However, a Referee's Recommendation may become a court order if neither party files objections. Parties may stipulate to a Binding Referee Hearing or arbitration.

State Law requires that any written report or recommendation prepared by a Referee be given to the parties and their attorneys before the Judge takes action on the Recommendation.

If a party disagrees with a Referee's Recommendation after the Evidentiary Hearing, she/he has the right to a de novo (a new) hearing before the Judge. Objections to the Referee's Recommendation, and a request for hearing, must be made within 21 days from the time that the Recommendation is mailed. An objection to a motion hearing must be made by the Friday following the motion date.

What is a Judicial Service Officer (JSO) and what do they do?

The Friend of the Court JSO manages a Friend of the Court case load of approximately 3,000 cases. The JSO will review and respond to correspondence and enforce support, parenting time, and custody orders. The JSO will also appear in Court on Show Cause and Bench Warrant Hearings. A JSO may also authorize petitions, ex parte orders, and other Court Orders as appropriate.

My child(ren)'s parent has not paid child support as was court ordered. Can they be charged with a Felony?

Under the Federal and State Law, failing to pay child support may be a Felony. The Friend of the Court office cannot bring Felony charges. State charges are filed and prosecuted by local county prosecutors. Generally, the Friend of the Court would not recommend the Prosecutor's Office pursue a felony charge unless all Friend of the Court efforts to gain compliance have failed, there is an ability to pay or sufficient evidence of the individual's ability to pay, there is a reasonable likelihood that prosecution would result in compliance, and the offender is more than $20,000 in arrears. If there is not $20,000 owed in arrears, the Friend of the Court may still recommend Felony enforcement if there has been substantial prior enforcement efforts.

What are the Friend of the Court hours of operation?

The Friend of the Court is open from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday. An individual may appear any time during the course of our open hours to discuss their case with a JSO.

I have some issues I want to discuss regarding my file and I don't want to talk over the telephone. What should I expect if I show up at the Friend of the Court?

If you wish to discuss a child support, custody, or parenting time issue with a JSO, you may appear at the Friend of the Court between the hours of 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM. If your assigned JSO is not available, another JSO will assist you. Referees do not take walk-ins. Any time you appear, you can expect to be treated in a courteous and respectful manner. Please remember the Friend of the Court does not advocate for either party and we are not allowed by Law to dispense legal advice.