Custody and Parenting Time FAQ
Are there different kinds of custody?Yes. The most common types of custody are Joint Custody [where the child lives with one parent part of the time and with the other parent part of the time and/or parents both share in making decisions on important issues dealing with the child] and Sole Custody [where the child lives with one parent and that parent is responsible for making decisions on important issues dealing with the child].
What is the Prosecutor's role in issues of custody and parenting time (visitation)?After a case is filed in Circuit Court and a temporary support order is signed by the Judge, the Prosecuting Attorney's office will refer the matter to the Friend of the Court's office for a formal recommendation on custody, support and parenting time ("visitation").
The Prosecuting Attorney does not appear in court on custody or parenting time (visitation) issues or disputes.If you need help because you are being denied parenting time, you may contact the Friend of the Court for assistance once a judgment has been issued by a Circuit Court Judge, or you may seek the assistance of a private attorney who specializes in family law. If you believe that the other parent has "kidnapped" your child, contact the police. They will conduct an investigation and possibly refer the case to the Prosecuting Attorney to decide whether a crime has occurred requiring prosecution.
How do I get an order for custody?A petition must be filed requesting the court to grant you custody of your child(ren). If both parties agree and sign an agreement (called a Stipulation and Consent Agreement), that will be entered as a custody order (if the Judge approves the terms, too).
How do I change an existing custody order?A custody order can be changed by filing a petition to modify the custody order --- or the parents can sign a written agreement, which the Judge can approve and enter.
We can't agree on custody issues. Can the Court help us reach an agreement?The Friend of the Court will provide domestic relations "mediation" to help resolve disagreements over the terms of custody. Mediation is a voluntary process where a neutral third party assists in settling disputes. If the parties cannot agree on the terms of custody --- or if mediation does not resolve disputes --- the FOC will conduct an investigation and file a written report and recommendation with the Circuit Court based on factors listed in the Michigan Child Custody Act. The parents will get copies of the report and recommendation. A court hearing will follow before the Judge decides what to do about custody.
Do I need an attorney to get a custody order?You do not have to have an attorney in order to file for a custody order, but it is a good idea because there are many complicated legal issues involved. Neither the Prosecuting Attorney nor the Friend of the Court can act as your legal counsel, or file a custody petition for you.
How do I get an order for parenting time (visitation)?File a petition requesting that the court grant you visitation time with your child(ren). If both parties (and the Judge) agree and sign an agreement, that will be entered as a visitation order. A visitation order can be changed by filing a petition to modify the order --- or the parents can sign a written agreement, which the Judge can approve and enter. The Friend of the Court will provide domestic relations "mediation" to help resolve disagreements over the terms of parenting time. If the parties cannot agree on the terms of parenting time --- or if mediation does not resolve disputes --- the Friend of the Court will conduct an investigation and file a written report and recommendation with the Circuit Court, based on factors listed in the Michigan Child Custody Act. The parents will get copies of the report and recommendation. A court hearing will follow before the Judge decides what to do about custody. The Child Custody Act states that visitation shall be granted in accordance with the "best interests of the children". A child has a right to parenting time with the non-custodial parent unless the Judge rules by clear and convincing evidence that the visitation would endanger the child's physical, mental or emotional health.
I am being denied visitation. What can be done?First, contact your attorney (if you hired one to assist you getting the custody order). Otherwise, file a written complaint with your county's Friend of the Court, requesting that the FOC take action to enforce the order. Include specific facts, dates, times, etc., and the reasons given for the alleged denial of visitation. If the Friend of the Court has reason to believe that the Parenting Time order has been violated, the office may (1) meet with the parties to try to resolve the disagreements, (2) refer the dispute to a mediator, (3) apply the office's local make-up visitation policy, (4) begin a civil contempt proceeding with the Court by filing a petition for a show cause order, and/or (5) petition the Court to change the existing Parenting Time order.
Does the Prosecuting Attorney or the Friend of the Court have a responsibility to investigate alleged abuse and/or neglect of a child?Allegations of child abuse or neglect should be reported to the Protective Services unit of your county's Michigan Department of Human Services (formerly known as the Family Independence Agency, or FIA). The DHS offices in Macomb County are located at:Macomb County DHS - Central Administration 19700 Hall Rd., Ste. A Clinton Township MI 48038-1478 (586) 412-6100Macomb County DHS - Mt Clemens District 21885 Dunham Rd. Clinton Township MI 48036 (586) 469-7700Macomb County DHS - Sterling Heights District 44600 Delco Blvd. Sterling Heights MI 48313 (586) 254-1500Macomb County DHS - Warren District 27690 Van Dyke Avenue Warren MI 48093 (586) 427-0600If the FIA investigation determines that abuse or neglect has occurred, the Prosecuting Attorney may be asked to assist FIA in filing a neglect petition in the Family Division of Circuit Court. The Friend of the Court must conduct an investigation when a party files a visitation or custody petition; allegations of abuse or neglect should be communicated to the Friend of the Court during this investigation.