The Role of “Friend of the Court” in Your Custody Case
Anytime a party with minor children files for divorce or initiates a custody action in any Metro-Detroit area family court, Friend of the Court will likely become involved. Friend of the Court is a separate courthouse that works under and assists the County Circuit Court in making decisions in cases regarding minor children, including matters relating to custody, child support, and parenting time. In Macomb County, Friend of the Court is connected to the Circuit Court in downtown Mount Clemens, whereas in Oakland and Wayne Counties, Friend of the Court is housed in separate locations near to the County Circuit courthouse.
At Friend of the Court hearings, decisions are made by attorneys called “referees,” as opposed to family court judges. While the referees assigned to a case oftentimes work closely in conjunction with the judges under whom they make decisions, an important distinction is that a referee’s decision is never final. Any Order/decision put forth by a referee is merely a “recommendation” until the Order is adopted and entered by the family court judge assigned to a party’s case.
In Macomb and Wayne Counties, each party has 21 days to file an “objection” to any decision rendered by a Friend of the Court referee. Subsequent to such objection, that party is entitled to a “de novo” hearing before the judge assigned to their case. At that point, each party will have an opportunity to convince the judge why or why not the referees order should stand. In Oakland County, the process for objecting works a little differently—Friend of the Court motion hearings take place in the courtroom of the judge assigned to your case. If either party is unhappy with the recommendation of the referee, they have an opportunity to immediately argue their objection before their assigned judge, who will determine then and there if the referee’s order will be adopted and entered at that time, and oftentimes state the reasons why or why not on the court record.
Navigating your way through Friend of the Court hearings and procedures can be just as complex and challenging as cases heard directly by the judge alone. That’s why it helps to have an experienced and confident family court attorney on your side before appearing for such proceedings. If you have a question regarding a Friend of the Court matter, or any other concern regarding family law, call the Law Offices of Joumana Kayrouz today!