Getting the most out of Friend of the Court

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By Marie E. Matyjaszek

Dealing with your Friend of the Court (FOC) may not be number one on your bucket list of life goals. Hopefully these tips will help you achieve the best result in your FOC case.

The FOC provides both parenting time and child support enforcement. If you were denied parenting time by the other parent, you may have recourse.

The first thing I look for in parenting time complaints is…wait for it…do you have an order that provides you with specific parenting time? Meaning, is your parenting time detailed, and spelled out in a court order? For example, it may say, “Father has parenting time every Tuesday, from 5-8 p.m. and every other weekend, from Friday at 5 p.m. until Monday at the commencement of school or 8 a.m. if there is no school.” This amount of specificity in a court order allows me to properly address your complaint.

This is why I emphasize to people who want to just agree on parenting time to have a minimum back-up schedule in the event that they cannot agree. It’s amazing what a new boyfriend or girlfriend will do to the parents’ ability to get along.

If your order simply states “parenting time is as the parties agree,” or “at the mother’s discretion,” this means you do not have specific parenting time. This language is vague and does not entitle you to a particular day or time.
Even if you’ve been exercising parenting time specifically for the last two years, if your court order does not match what you’ve been doing, we can’t enforce it. At that point, you would need to file a motion to ask for specific parenting time. MCL 722.27a(8) provides for specific parenting time to be granted if either party requests it (of course, this is subject to the scrutiny of the best interest factors and other parenting time factors).

Be mindful of all time limits that exist when dealing with the FOC. Your paperwork will state the time frame that you have to object to recommendations, or abatements of support. You may only have so many days that you can request assistance on a parenting time denial before it’s too late and no enforcement action will be taken. I adhere strictly to time limits – if I don’t, it’s a slippery slope to consider one person’s objection even though it’s nine days late. The rules are there for a reason – you may not know them or be aware, but it’s your responsibility (whether you have an attorney or not) to make yourself aware of the deadlines. 

If you don’t turn in your paperwork on time for a child support review, and you are the petitioning party, your petition may be dismissed. If you aren’t sure of the time frame, call and ask.

Speaking of paperwork, turn in all of your requested documents. No one likes playing the guessing game, and that includes FOC employees. Even if you are coming in for an appointment on parenting time, and you have no intention of changing child support, if you are asked to bring in financial information, please do it! At minimum, this paperwork can remain in the FOC file, and if child support is an issue a year down the road, and we don’t hear from you then, we’ve got something to potentially provide us with your information. 

Be sure to tell us, just like you’d advise your doctor, if you move, your insurance changes, etc. We do not want to make your life difficult (really we don’t). Get ahead of any potential issues and be as cooperative as possible when asked for information. My best advice in dealing with the FOC is to be proactive, not reactive. 

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The author is an Attorney Referee at the Washtenaw County Friend of the Court; however, the views expressed in this column are her own. Her blog site is: http://legalbling.blogspot.com. She can be reached at matyjasz@hotmail.com.

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