One of the most important actors in cases involving minor children is the Friend of the Court. Most parties have no experience with the Friend of the Court prior to beginning a divorce or custody action, and are often unfamiliar with the role that the Friend of the Court plays during and afterwards. We can help you understand how the Friend of the Court might be involved in your own case. Contact us online and get the help you need today. Also, the following general Friend of the Court information may prove helpful to you.
The Oakland County Friend of the Court is involved in all Oakland County cases in circuit court that involve minor children. That is, unless the parties choose not to the use the services provided by the Friend of the Court. The Friend of the Court was created to assist in divorce, paternity, custody, and support matters. The Friend of the Court is not a strictly judicial body, but an agency that works with the courts and the parties in disputes.
The primary responsibility of the Oakland County Friend of the Court is to investigate disputes and make recommendations to the circuit court concerning child custody and support, parenting time, and medical support. It also provides the public with forms that are needed for filing motions, assist in alternative dispute resolution services, and enforce court orders.
Duties of the Friend of the Court
1) Child Support
In a case involving child support the Friend of the Court will conduct an investigation and issue a recommendation to the court. The support recommendations are generally based on the Michigan Child Support Formula, MCL 552.501 et seq., absent a determination that the formula is unjust or inappropriate under the circumstances. This is not binding on the court and is merely a recommendation to the court on how to resolve the issue, but it is a recommendation based on the information gathered during the investigation.
2) Child Custody
In child custody disputes, the Oakland County Friend of the Court will investigate the case and issue a recommendation to the court based on the best interest factors laid out in the Child Custody Act, MCL 722.21-31; MCL 552.505(1)(g). You will receive a copy of the recommendation before the court takes any action based on the recommendation and the court is not bound by the recommendation and cannot decide your matter solely based upon it. If your child indicates a preference as to which parent he or she wishes to be their custodial parent, the parties must be informed that the child has a preference, but will not be told what the preference is.
3) Enforcing Court Orders
One duty of the Oakland County Friend of the Court is enforcing the orders of the circuit court. In enforcing these orders the Friend of the Court can use liens, bonds, tax offsets, consumer reports, license suspensions, contempt proceedings and, very importantly, income and support payment withholdings in conjunction with the Michigan State Disbursement Unit. You must be aware of these actions as they can have a devastating impact on your life. The loss of licenses can have a significant negative impact on your income, whether you lose an occupational license or even your driver’s license. You can be jailed as a result of contempt proceedings, or have your income or support payments withheld. The Oakland County Friend of the Court has significant judicial and administrative power with which to enforce the orders of the circuit court.
The Oakland County Friend of the Court will also enforce orders regarding custody and parenting time. It will do so when the court has received a written complaint alleging the violation of an order. If the Friend of the Court finds that the complaint has merit, it will remedy the issue using enforcement mechanisms such as: makeup parenting time, a joint meeting of the parties, alternative dispute resolution, or a motion to modify the parenting time order.
4) Alternative Dispute Resolution
The Oakland County Friend of the Court provides alternative dispute resolution services. For formal mediation, it refers parties to the Oakland Mediation Center, although some mediation is handled by Friend of the Court employees.
Mediation is available throughout the process, including after the judgment is entered, in order to help resolve custody and parenting time disputes.
Your Obligations With the Friend of the Court
When you are working with the Oakland County Friend of the Court, you have an obligation to abide by the orders of the court. You are also required to provide the Friend of the Court with information, including: your residential and mailing address, telephone number, employer and/or sources of income, any occupational licenses you hold, your driver’s license and Social Security numbers (unless exempt by law from obtaining or disclosing that number), children’s current residence, and health coverage information. This is not a complete list and you should consult with your attorney to ensure you are fully compliant with the Oakland County Friend of the Court requirements.
It is important to note that the Oakland County Friend of the Court has no authority to investigate claims of abuse and neglect; it cannot change an order of the court; and cannot give you any legal advice. For legal advice, you need to consult a lawyer.
The Friend of the Court is an agency of the court and its duties do not include rendering legal assistance to parties. In fact the court is categorically barred from doing so. As a result, an individual needing assistance with any legal matter must be certain to see a qualified attorney to represent them. While the Oakland County Friend of the Court can be helpful and serves an important role in administering a domestic relations case, it is not a substitute for a qualified lawyer.
For direct information on the Oakland County Friend of the Court you can view their website at: http://www.oakgov.com/courts/foc/Pages/default.aspx Their office is located at: 230 Elizabeth Lake Road Pontiac, MI 48341 and can be reached by mail at: P.O. Box 436012, Pontiac, MI 48343. To get in touch with them by phone the Friend of the Court can be reached through either the Friend of the Court Automated Telephone System: (248) 858-1565 or by calling Toll Free: 800 357-4507.
If you have any questions about the Friend of the Court’s responsibilities, your responsibilities, or need assistance with a family law matter, please contact the family law attorneys in our Oakland County office.