What Is a Conciliation Hearing for Divorce in Michigan?

By Beverly Bird

The Michigan divorce process is relatively unique in that the state uses the services of a Friend of the Court. The FOC is part of the family court division in each Michigan county. Its purpose is to relieve the court system -- and the state’s judges -- of some of the detail work involved in divorce cases. It oversees child support enforcement and helps to implement child custody orders early in the divorce process.

The Conciliation Conference

If you have children, you and your spouse will receive notices from the FOC shortly after one of you files for divorce. The notice schedules you for a conciliation conference. If you have attorneys, most Michigan counties allow them to attend with you. However, the conference is a casual proceeding, so you can handle it on your own if you want to. The FOC referee -- who is a court-appointed attorney, not a judge – attempts to help you reach an agreement regarding custody, visitation and child support. The referee bases child support on your incomes and a court-approved formula. Custody and visitation issues are open for discussion and negotiation.

Stipulated Custody Orders

If you and your spouse can agree on a parenting plan schedule at the conciliation conference, the referee will write up the details and conclude your conciliation process. You’ll sign the agreement and the referee will forward it to a judge for his signature. Your agreement becomes a stipulated temporary court order, establishing custody and visitation terms until your divorce is final, which is usually a minimum of six months in Michigan. "Stipulated" means you and your spouse agree to the terms of the order.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

The Objection Process

If you and your spouse can’t reach a parenting agreement at your conciliation conference, the FOC referee will decide a temporary parenting plan for you, based on factors included in Michigan’s legislative code. These factors detail what the state considers to be in the best interests of your children. The referee then sends his recommended custody and visitation order to a judge for signature, and you’ll receive a copy of the referee's decision as well. Depending on your county, you'll have anywhere from 21 to 28 days to object if you disagree with the referee’s custody terms. Even if you object, however, you must adhere to the terms of the order until the court schedules a conciliation hearing.

The De Novo Hearing

Unlike the original conciliation conference, a conciliation hearing -- also called a de novo hearing -- is a formal court proceeding. In Michigan, this hearing is essentially your custody trial. You and your spouse can present witnesses and documents for the court's review, and you can both testify. Depending on your county, you may end up back with the FOC referee for this hearing, or it might be held in front of a judge. If the referee hears it, he will again decide your custody issue after listening to all the evidence and again send a written order to you, your spouse and the judge. Under Michigan law, the judge does not have to try custody issues all over again when and if you proceed to trial to resolve other issues of your divorce. He can base his final custody decision on the referee’s de novo order.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
Divorce Mediator Process in New Jersey

References

Related articles

Divorce Mediation Questions

If you are pondering or going through divorce proceedings, mediation is worth considering. It is usually less costly than going to court. It gives you and your spouse control over the proceedings -- if you go to trial on issues of finances or child custody, the judge makes the decision and you are stuck with it. In comparison, a mediator facilitates dialog between you and your spouse, enabling the two of you to work out your differences and come to an amicable agreement.

Florida Contested Divorce Procedures

A contested divorce doesn’t necessarily mean you and your spouse disagree on every issue involved in ending your marriage. You might agree to custody, but not alimony or to property division and not custody. Any time one issue remains unresolved between spouses, the divorce is considered contested.

The Procedures During a Divorce in Colorado

If you're divorcing in Colorado, the process is going to take at least three months because the state will not grant a divorce until 90 days after one spouse files for divorce and serves the other with a copy of the papers. If your divorce is contested, it will take longer. However, the wait may not be as long as in other states because Colorado's divorce procedure includes several deadlines for moving cases through the court system in a timely fashion.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

What Is the Divorce Process in Michigan?

Divorce laws vary from state to state, but most follow a similar pattern. One spouse must initiate the divorce, the ...

Amount of Time Between a Magistrate's Recommendation and Divorce

Not all states use magistrates to assist in the divorce process. Among those states that do, magistrates are often ...

How Long Does Divorce Take in Michigan if You Have No Children?

Establishing custody and support for a minor child can be a time-consuming aspect of the divorce process. These matters ...

What Do You Call an Attorney Who Represents a Child in a Custody Case?

When it comes to custody disputes in divorce, some attorneys represent the grownups, and others look out for the ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED