Custody & Parenting Time
Custody is always an important issue to parents. It's a difficult concept to comprehend during a difficult time in your life. The Court relies heavily on the parties to establish and maintain the best arrangement possible to ensure proper care, maintenance, and control of their minor children. In Lenawee County, each party is strongly encouraged and sometimes ordered to attend or take online the Children in Between program.
When parties do not to agree on Custody or Parenting Time, the Court will likely make a recommendation and/or order. There are several types of custody arrangements provided under the law. Talk to your legal counsel regarding which type may be best suited for you and your children.
Parenting Time involves more than one process at the Friend of the Court office. One process relates to the establishment and modification of Parenting Time. Another process relates to the enforcement of Parenting Time. Still another process requires credit for parenting time that a non-custodial parent has had their children. The 2021 Parenting Time Guideline may be found here.
Establishing Parenting Time
The Friend of the Court continues to rely heavily on the arrangement of the parties. Most parents that we see have already implemented some sort of viable schedule that shares Parenting Time between the two parties. Each case is different in their particular circumstances, however, parents do not always agree as to what is in the best interest of their children. In such circumstances, the Friend of the Court will refer the parties to mediation (available free at the Friend of the Court) or to a Referee Hearing (includes a $20 Motion Fee and an $80 Post-Judgment Fee). The fees are collected upon filing at the Lenawee County Clerk's Office.
A Referee Hearing is conducted by a Friend of the Court Referee in a "mini-courtroom" setting. There, the parties may present their arguments either alone or with their attorney. Based on the information provided in the hearing, the Referee makes a decision. Please remember, you may not agree with what the Referee recommends. Either way, the Referee Recommendation may be presented to the Court for approval and signature. If the Court Judge agrees with the recommendation, it may be signed into an effective order. Either party has the right to appeal the Referee Recommendation and Order to the Circuit Court within 21 days from the date of mailing.
Modifying Your Parenting Time Order
The Friend of the Court offers services in preparing simple stipulations where parties have previously indicated their agreement in changing their Parenting Time order. A stipulation may be used for custody changes as well. A stipulation is a written agreement. There are certain components within the stipulation document that the Friend of the Court is required to include. The stipulation agreement is drafted by the Friend of the Court and provided to both parties. If the parties agree with the language within the stipulation, they may sign the agreement. If they don't agree, the latest Parenting Time language remains in effect.
Once the stipulation has been signed by both parties, the document may then be submitted to the Circuit Court Judge for signature. If signed by the Circuit Court Judge the language agreed upon becomes the order that may be enforced by the Friend of the Court. Mediation is also a possible solution for parties who wish to mediate a modification to their parenting time order. Please contact the Friend of the Court or visit the Mediation Page for more information on scheduling a mediation time.
Enforcing Your Parenting Time Order
The Friend of the Court has legislative policy and processes for determining whether a party has violated their Parenting Time provision. The processes contain specific time frames. If you believe that your Parenting Time provision has been violated, please contact your Friend of the Court Enforcement Officer within 56 days of the Parenting Time violation.
When a non-custodial parent wishes to have their court-ordered 50% retroactive abatement issued to their child support account, They must send their request in writing to the Friend of the Court. The request must include the beginning date and the end date of their parenting time, and the stay must be at least 6 continuous overnight stays. Please make this request to the attention of your caseworker.