How do I get an order for custody?

A petition requesting the court to grant you custody of your children must be filed with the court. If both parents agree and sign an agreement (stipulation and consent agreement), that agreement, if approved by the court, may be entered as a custody order.

How do I change an existing order for custody?

A petition to modify a custody order must be filed with the court, or the parents can sign a written agreement changing custody (stipulation and consent agreement), which if approved by the court, will change custody.

Do I need to have an attorney to get custody?

It is not required that you have an attorney to file a petition for custody. However, there are many complicated issues involved in a custody case and there fore you may want to have an attorney represent you. The Friend of the Court cannot file a petition for custody for you.

Is there any way the court can assist us in reaching an agreement on custody?

The Friend of the Court is required to provide Domestic Relations Mediation. Mediation is a process where a neutral third party assists in voluntarily settling a custody dispute. Both parties must agree to participate in this process.

Are there different kinds of custody?

Yes, a number of custody arrangements are possible. The most common are

Joint Custody

  • Joint custody means an order of the court in which one or both of the following are provided:
  • That the children live with one parent part of the time and with the other parent part of the time.
  • That the parents both share in making decisions on important issues dealing with the children.

Sole Custody

  • An order of the court which states that the children live with one parent and that parent is responsible for making decisions on important issues dealing with the child.

After a petition for custody has been filed, and we cannot reach our own agreement, what does the Friend of the Court have to do?

The Friend of the Court is required to:  

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      • Offer mediation services to the parties.
      • Conduct an investigation and file a written report and recommendation to the court based on the factors listed in the Michigan Child Custody Act.
      • Do I have the right to receive a copy of the Friend of the Court report and recommendation on custody?
      • Before the court takes any action on a Friend of the Court custody recommendation, the Friend of the Court must provide to each party or their attorney a copy of the report, recommendation and any supporting documents or a summary of the documents prepared or used by the Friend of the Court.

What will happen if I have an order for custody and the other parent does not return the child to me as stated in the court order?

You have several choices:

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      • You can contact the Friend of the Court and request that they enforce your order.
      • You can contact your attorney.
      • You can contact the Prosecuting Attorney and request that a kidnapping charge be started if you have reason to believe that the other parent intends to keep the child.

Does the Friend of the Court have a responsibility to investigate alleged abuse and/or neglect of a child?

Allegations of abuse or neglect should be reported to the Protective Services unity of your local Department of Human Services (DHS) office. The Friend of the Court has a responsibility to 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 the investigate process.