Once physical custody is determined with one parent (the custodial parent), then the other parent may be allowed to get parenting time. Parenting time is what a lot of people call visitation. It is the time the noncustodial parent gets to spend with the child. There are many disagreements between parties about parenting time. Although courts want to foster the relationship of both parents with the child, there may be situations where the parenting time is limited or even supervised by outsiders. Sometimes there are good reasons for this, but sometimes the custodial parent is upset with the other parent and tries to use the court system to punish the noncustodial parent by limiting or taking away parenting time. In either event, you need to make sure that your legal rights are protected, either as the custodial parent or the noncustodial parent. Call attorney Denise Cole at Grace Legal Services in Lansing, Michigan, for an appointment to discuss your child custody, parenting time, and child support issues today.
Depending on what county your case is in will determine the process that you will follow. There are statutes and court rules mandated by the state, but each county has some latitude to adjust for local needs. The normal process for child custody begins with the Friend of the Court (FOC). The FOC system assists the court in handling child custody, parenting time, and child support issues.
The first step is conciliation. This is a process where the parties sit down together in a room with a FOC conciliator to see if custody, support, and parenting time can be agreed upon. Some counties allow your attorney to be in the room with you, and some do not. It is very important that you do not allow yourself to be persuaded to agree to something that you are not comfortable with. Many times, clients without their attorneys in the room will feel pressured to come to an agreement even though they do not like or really want to agree to it. If the parties come to an agreement, then the conciliator puts that in writing, and the parties sign it. If the parties do not agree, then the conciliator writes a proposed order for the judge to review and sign. If you are not in agreement with the proposed order, you have a limited amount of time to object. Your attorney will be able to guide you through this process if needed.
If the conciliator's proposed order is timely objected to, then the process continues to a FOC referee hearing. The referee hearing is much like a mini-trial, where the only issues to be decided are child custody, parenting time, and child support. The referee hearings are normally private and held in a smaller room than a courtroom would be. Your attorney is allowed in a referee hearing and is allowed to conduct the hearing by calling witnesses and presenting other evidence, just like in a trial. The attorneys will present closing arguments, and the referee will make a determination as to the outcome. Just like with the conciliator, you may object to the referee's determination, and the process would then move on to the judge handling your case.
If the process moves on to the judge, you will now get another hearing before the judge. This process is much like the referee hearing, but before the judge in the public courtroom. You can present the same evidence that you presented at the referee hearing, and you are also allowed to present other evidence that was not presented at the referee hearing. At the conclusion of the hearing before the judge, or within a time period afterwards, the judge will prepare a written order determining these issues. If you are not satisfied with that outcome, you may appeal the judge's decision to the Michigan Court of Appeals.
Most of the cases are concluded before they reach the judge. However, sometimes further litigation is necessary so that the proper result gets reached.
If you have legal questions or require assistance with family matters, estate planning, or conflict resolution, don't hesitate to reach out. Denise Cole is here to help. Please fill out the contact form below, and she will get back to you promptly to discuss your legal needs and schedule a consultation.