The Michigan Child Custody Act provides that the court shall declare the inherent rights of the child and establish rights and responsibilities of the parents as to custody of the child. The "best interests" of the child control the Court's determination regarding custody. (MCL722.24 and MCL 722.25).
The courts in Michigan recognize two types of custody: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody refers to where the child resides and who makes the routine decisions regarding the day-to-day care for the child. Legal custody refers to who makes the important major decisions regarding the child's health, safety and welfare, like educational, religious, medical, and other important decisions. Both types of custody can be either sole, meaning with only one parent/custodian, or joint, meaning with both parents/custodians.
- I want to change the physical custody of my children. What do I do?
If the parties agree on a custody modification, one of the parties must file a “Stipulated Motion for Change of Custody, Parenting Time and/or Domicile” with the FOC. The forms are on this website. Detailed instructions explain how to file this paperwork and the filing fees required for entry of the order.
If the parties do not agree on a custody modification, one of the parties may file a "Motion for Change of Custody" and a "Notice of Disputed Custody" with the FOC. The forms are on this website. Detailed instructions explain how to file this paperwork and the filing fees required.
- Do I need an attorney to file a Motion to Change Custody?
No. You may file the motion on your own. However, the court will expect you to follow the same rules that an attorney must follow and pay any required filing fees. There are many complex issues in a custody case and most people prefer to have an attorney represent them. The Friend of Court (FOC) cannot file a motion for you, nor can the office provide you with an attorney or tell you what to say in the motion. If you have retained an attorney (for any reason), you cannot file this motion on your own. You must contact your attorney and have him/her do the filing.
- Can the FOC assist parties in reaching an agreement regarding custody?
Yes. The FOC provides domestic relations mediation when there is a custody dispute and both parties agree to participate in mediation.
- If a motion for custody has been filed, and the parents cannot reach an agreement on their own, what will the FOC do?
The FOC must:
- Offer mediation services to the parties
- If the Judge directs, the FOC must investigate the custody issue and file a written report and recommendation based upon the “best interests of the child” factors in the Michigan Child Custody Act.
- May I receive a copy of the FOC’s custody report and recommendation?
Upon request, and before the court acts on the recommendation, the FOC must give each party or that party’s attorney a copy of the report, including the custody recommendation and a summary of the information used in making the recommendation.
- What happens if I have custody according to the court’s order, but the other parent does not return the child to me as required by the order?
- You may contact the FOC office and request enforcement of the order.
- You may contact your attorney.
- If you believe the other parent will refuse to return the child, you may contact the police or the prosecuting attorney and ask either to file a parental
- kidnapping charge.
- How do I enforce the custody order if the other parent takes our child to another country?
When a child who is a U.S. citizen is illegally kept outside of this country, the U.S. State Department’s Office of Children’s Issues will work with the local U.S. embassy and the other country’s government to assist the child and the lawful custodial parent. However, because child custody disputes are private legal disputes between the two parents, the State Department has no jurisdiction to force the other parent to obey a court order. If the parents cannot reach an agreement, this kind of child custody dispute often must be resolved by judicial proceedings in the country where the child and the other parent are living. The State Department will help the lawful custodial parent to file the appropriate documents with the foreign authorities. It also will monitor and report on the foreign judicial or administrative proceedings.
- Is the FOC allowed to investigate child abuse or neglect?
No. The FOC does not have the authority to investigate child abuse or neglect. Child abuse or neglect should be reported to the Department of Health and Human Services-Child Protective Services Division in the county where the custodial parent and child live.
- If I change my mind and want to stop my request for a custody change, what must I do?
You may withdraw your motion by completing a “Withdrawal of Motion for Change of Custody” form found on this site.
- If I object to the Referee’s Recommendation, what can I do?
You may request a DeNovo Review by the assigned Judge by filing an “Objection to Referee’s Recommended Order." The form is on this website. Detailed instructions explain how to file this paperwork.