In Michigan, if a parent has proven to the court that there has been a change in circumstance or proper cause to consider a change in custody, the court will generally ask Friend of the Court to make a custody recommendation. Friend of the Court will investigate and make a recommendation to the Court after a full analysis of the best interests of the child by weighing the following factors:
After analysis of these factors, the Friend of the Court will then issue a written report and recommendation that is submitted to the parents and to the Judge. The Judge will review and consider the recommendation.
However, the Judge cannot just adopt the recommendation without hearing testimony and considering evidence. This requirement was reiterated in the case of Deling v Lam, unpublished case per curiam of the Michigan Court of Appeals, issued October 7, 2010 (Docket No. 295272). In that case, the trial judge merely adopted the recommendation, which radically changed the physical custody arrangement from joint physical custody to giving the father sole physical custody. The trial judge did not hear testimony or consider evidence—the judge just adopted the recommendation. The mother appealed, and the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s decision, stating that the trial judge improperly delegated its authority by failing to independently evaluate each of the best interest factors. The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s decision and sent the case back to the trial court for a new custody hearing.
In issues of custody and parenting time, it is extremely important to understand not only what your rights are as a parent, but also to fully understand every step in the process.
Sign up to receive a 5-part series of useful information and advice about child custody law.