Common Myths Regarding Friend of the Court
In Michigan, the Friend of the Court, or FOC, is a professional whose main job is to assist the court with making determinations regarding child custody, parenting time, child support payments, and so on, as well as mediating disputes between parents during and after custody proceedings and enforcing court rulings in these cases. Still, not everyone understands what, exactly, FOCs do. Here are a few common myths you should be aware of.
The FOC is on Your Side
The FOC works for the court and is tasked with investigating, reporting, and in some cases, making a recommendation. If the FOC is on anyone’s side, it is the side of the children, insomuch as he/she is trying to act in their best interests when making custody, child support, and related recommendations.
That said, it is within the purview of the FOC to help parents settle disputes that may arise during and after a custody case. If, for example, one parent is not making court ordered child support payments, or one parent is not complying with the child custody arrangement, the FOC could step in to try to rectify the situation so that the court doesn’t have to become involved again.
The FOC Decides Your Case
FOCs are assistants to the court – they are not judges. The court relies on FOCs to investigate situations where custody, child support, and related issues are being decided. The FOC on a case may start with a conciliation process, which entails meeting with parents to try to come to an agreement regarding custody, parenting time, child support, and so on.
Unfortunately, this process doesn’t always prove fruitful. If parties can’t come to an arrangement on their own, the FOC will conduct an investigation. This could include interviewing children and talking to outside parties like relatives, friends, and teachers.
The information gathered is then used by the FOC to formulate recommendations for custody and parenting time. A recommendation for child support payments is calculated using a formula that takes income, parenting time (overnight stays), and a variety of other factors into consideration.
Parents will receive a copy of FOC recommendations and either party (or both) can object, prompting a hearing to gather additional information. Although the court has no obligation to accept FOC recommendations, they are weighted heavily and the court often follows recommendations. If parties object, the court may issue temporary orders for parenting time and child support until parties can present evidence. Temporary orders may follow a conciliation, investigation, or hearing.
FOCs Have No Power
Although FOCs don’t make final decisions in child custody cases, they do have the power to influence the court through their investigatory reports and subsequent recommendations. In addition, FOCs are tasked with providing enforcement services, including altering parenting time when one parent will not comply with the set schedule, or withholding income and intercepting tax refunds when a parent fails to pay court ordered child support, just for example.
FOC have many responsibilities, and it is unwise to assume they have no power just because the court makes final decisions. It’s always best to treat FOCs with honesty and respect in order to ensure the best outcomes for everyone involved.
If you need help with a child custody case, contact the qualified professionals at The Gucciardo Law Firm today at 248-723-5190.
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