How long after I file before I am divorced?
In Michigan, the law provides that a divorce without children has to be filed for 63 days before a divorce Judgment is granted.  So, without children, it takes at least 64 days for a divorce to occur.  It may take up to 6  months if the you and your spouse can not decide how to divide the assets and debt.

A divorce with children takes longer.   The law provides that when a divorce is filed and the parties have minor children, the parties have to wait 6  months before a divorce Judgment can be entered with the court.  However, in most courts in Michigan, Judges will enter a Judgment prior to the expiration of the 6 months, if both parties tell the Court that it is in the best interest of the children that the Judgment is entered sooner than the 6 months.  Usual reasons given are the children stability, or to reduce the children’s stress by “things” becoming final.

How is child support calculated?
Michigan law provides that child support is calculated using the child support prognosticator.  The following factors are considered:  1.)  both parties income, including W-2 and 1099 income, business income, cash income, wages and tips, 2.)  the number of the parties’ children, 3.)  the number of overnights excised by both parents, 4.)   health care premiums,  5.) child care, and 6.) tax filing status and number of exemptions.  If either party has additional children they are supporting, the number of additional children is included.  This information is included in a computer program and the child support is calculated.

Can child support be agreed upon at a lower amount than the prognosticator  supports?
Yes, however, the court does  not have to adopt your agreement.  All courts have an obligation to assure that the established support is sufficient to support the child in the same manner as the payer of support lives.  If the support prognosticator calculates support to be $1,000 per month, the court most like will not enter a support order for $440 per month.  If the parties agree to support of $850 per month, and the payer of support supports the child in another manner, e.g. pays for private schooling or all extracurricular activities, the Court will most like be convinced that the agreed upon support amount is sufficient.

What are the 12 custodial factors the Court reviews prior to making a custodial decision?
Michigan statute, in MCL 722.23,  sets forth the 12 custodial factors the court must consider when it makes a custodial decision.  The standard is the “best interest of the child” standard.

  1. The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parties involved.
  2. The capacity and disposition of the parties to give the child love, and guidance, and to continue the education and raising of the child in his/her religion or creed.
  3. The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care or other remedial care or other remedial care recognized and permitted under the laws of this state in place of medical care, and other material needs.
  4. The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
  5. The permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes.  Plaintiff is married and lives in an apartment.
  6. The moral fitness of the parties involved.
  7. The mental and physical health of the parties.  Both parties are young and in relatively good physical health.  Defendant is in good mental health.
  8. The home, school, and community record of the child.  The child’s custodial environment is with both parties.
  9. The reasonable preference of the child.
  10. The willingness and ability of each of the parties to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other patent or the child and the parents.
  11. Domestic violence.
  12. Any other factor considered by the court to be relevant.

I heard that joint custody of the children is always awarded. Is this true?
Michigan Statute MCL 722.26a provides that when parents cannot agree to custody of the children, one party can ask the court to award joint custody of the children.  When asked, the court shall than “consider an award of joint custody.”  When making its consideration, the Court shall determine “in the child’s best interest” whether the “parents will be able to cooperate and generally agree concerning important decision affecting the welfare of the children.”  Child support may still be ordered, to assure the “needs of the children” are being met based on “the actual resources of the parent.”

In most cases, a custody and parenting time order is put in place that assures the most consistent and stable contact between the parents and the children. 

What happens at a Friend of the Court hearing?
A Friend of the Court hearing is before a Referee.  At the hearing, you should present evidence supporting your case, including testimony of witnesses.  The Referee will make a decision based on what was presented at the hearing.  The Referee’s recommendation will become an order, unless you object to the recommendation.  When you object to the Referee’s recommendation, you will schedule your objections in front of the Judge.  The Judge will then decide whether the Referee made the correct decision based upon the facts presented and the law.  If the Judge determines the Referee’s decision is correct, then the Judge will adopt the Referee’s recommendation.

The Friend of the Court schedules Referee hearings for child support and changes to custody and parenting time orders.   Most times, a Referee hearing is scheduled because it  can be scheduled sooner than a Judge hearing and will cost you less,  you believe the Referee has a “good grasp” of your families’ case and believe the Referee will make a “good” decision, or the Judge orders you to have a Referee hearing  instead of a Judge hearing.

Confusing?  That’s because it can be, and that is why an attorney should be present with you at any Friend of the Court hearing.  

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