What is a Friend of the Court in a Michigan Divorce Case?

Divorces in Michigan are unique legal matters because there's a significant amount of out-of-courtroom support required throughout the process. In addition to your own attorneys, you and your spouse may handle certain administrative matters through a "Friend of the Court." The term refers to an office in the Michigan court system that provides a wide range of services, especially in the areas of child support and custody. In some ways, the Friend of the Court is second only to your own Michigan divorce lawyer in terms of offering guidance and help. Therefore, it's important to understand what a representative of this office does and how he or she may be involved in your case.

The Role of the Friend of the Court

This administrative office serves as the "eyes and ears" of the court in a divorce case, performing tasks as requested by a judge who cannot be everywhere at once. A Friend of the Court officer may be involved with such duties as:

  • Investigating matters where the court needs information related to child support, custody, and parenting time;

  • Making recommendations to a judge about potential dispute resolution; and,

  • Assisting spouses in making arrangements for divorce mediation.

Enforcement Powers

Another area where a Friend of the Court may be involved in a Michigan divorce case is in enforcement efforts for child support. This administrative office manages the system that collects and distributes support payments deposited by the paying parent. Parents aren't required to use the Friend of the Court to process child support payments, but many opt to do so because of the convenience of the service and the fact that state law requires payments to be submitted electronically.

Decisions in Your Divorce Case

A Friend of the Court representative doesn't have the power to make decisions in a divorce case; only a judge may issue orders. The role of this office is to assist the court, so any reports are merely recommendations based upon the individual's investigation and assessment. However, divorce courts tend to give deference to the suggestions of a Friend of the Court officer, though a judge is not allowed to base his or her entire decision upon the report.

Discuss Your Case with an Experienced Michigan Divorce Attorney

While a Friend of the Court may be helpful as you're working through certain issues in the Michigan divorce process, this individual is no substitute for having a skilled divorce lawyer to represent your interests. The Friend of the Court's role is limited and is not intended to serve as a source of legal advice and counsel, so it's essential to retain an attorney to protect your rights. Considering that divorce will have a major impact on your entire family, you need an experienced, knowledgeable lawyer on your side. If you have questions about Michigan's Friend of the Court system or other divorce-related matters, please contact attorney Michael A. Robbins. Our lawyers can answer your questions or schedule a consultation for you at our convenient Bloomfield Hills, MI office.