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What is a friend of the court?

Determining child custody is not something that the courts take lightly. The best interests of the child are always what the courts will want to determine. One way they do this is through the evaluations of the friend of the court office. This is usually the first agency parents deal with when the court is trying to determine custody. According to Michigan law, a custody evaluation will be completed, with copies going to the parents and the judge, when ordered by the court or when mediation is not attempted or is not successful.

A custody evaluation consists of a meeting with each parent separately or together. Parents are often anxious and stressed about this meeting and may feel that the evaluation may cause them to lose their children. However, this evaluation is done to provide the court with a recommendation as to what the friend of the court feels is in the best interests of the child in terms of custody.

Parents are asked questions that relate to the Child Custody Act, such as how the child is shown love and affection by each parent. Home visits may be required, with or without notice. The evaluator may ask the parents to sign release forms for school records, home records, community records and more. The evaluator may want to interview the child, but if a preference for where the child wants to live is voiced, the parents will not be told so as to make sure the relationship between the child and each parent is protected.

The friend of the court evaluation is an important part of custody determinations. Ensuring the best interests of the child is always the goal. If you do not agree with the decision the judge makes on custody, you and your attorney can appeal the ruling.

Source: courts.mi.gov, "Custody Guideline," accessed Feb. 10, 2016

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