Friend of the Court
Notice: Due to the COVID-19 crisis, regular service with our office is unavailable until further notice. Our phones are available from 8:30am - 4:00pm, Monday through Friday. Please note that due to high call volume you might experience longer wait times.
New AnnouncementsPosted August 24, 2020: Parenting Time Issues Surrounding Back-to-School and COVID-19
The Friend of the Court recognizes that schools will be changing their hours and offering on-line education, as an alternative to sending students back to the classroom and school buildings.
We also recognize these school changes are not universal and can be different depending on the age of your children.
In addition, because these changes are often sudden and subject to change as the school term evolves, it is difficult for the Court to address these changes in a court order.
Please be flexible in your co-parenting and work with the other parent to make the necessary adjustments to ensure that your children receive their education without additional conflict or stress.Compliance:
It is also important that parenting time continue during the school year and that if parents need to make changes, they should stay as close as possible to the court ordered schedule. The Court will enforce parenting time.Services:
If you need help with adjusting your court order to make school functions easier, the Friend of the Court has services to help you accomplish this.
- Co-Parent Session: use to clarify your school language- you can request this service via email at FOC.Mail@Kentcountymi.gov.
- Mediation: use to clarify or change your court order (both parents must agree to participate) – sign up by clicking here.
Questions and answers regarding school language in court orders.My children are not going to school but are participating in on- line class remotely, how do I follow my order for parenting time under these circumstances:
My court order states that I pick up after school.
The language, “after school,” is not a specific time the Friend of the Court can enforce. If you have a dispute you can clarify this time by requesting a co-parent session from our office, or if both parents agree, sign -up for mediation. If the order says,” release from school”, a co-parent session is not necessary, just time of school release is needed, which will be different for each school system.
My Court order states I return children to school the following morning.
In this situation, we are lacking a specific time to enforce. Parents can agree to return the child to the other parent so that they do not miss on-line classes or agree to something else. If enforcement is a concern, a specific time and location will be required, this can be accomplished by requesting a co-parent session, mediation, or filing a motion directly with the Circuit court, if mutual agreements are not possible.
My Court order states that our parenting time exchange is at the school parking
Although your school may be closed to the public, you can still conduct your exchanges in the parking lot. If this is no longer convenient, parents can agree to designate a new exchange location. This change can be added to your court order, by requesting mediation, or filing a motion with Circuit Court.
My school is asking me if my child will return to school in-person this fall. Do I need to
discuss this with the other parent or can I make the decision on my own?
It depends on what your court order says. If your court order says that you have sole legal custody, you can make the decision on your own. If your court order says that you have joint legal custody, you will need to discuss this with the other parent and make the decision together. If you don’t know whether you have joint legal or sole legal custody, you may contact the Clerk of the Court at 616 632-5480 to get a copy of your court order.
Does the Friend of the Court offer any guidance to help parents make the decision whether
a child should return to school in-person or attend remotely?
Yes. The Friend of the Court suggests that parents consider their own unique circumstances and those of the other parent. For instance, if either household has an immunocompromised person residing in the home, parents may understandably have concerns about sending their child to school. As such, it might be prudent to attend school remotely. Similarly, if a possible COVID exposure could cause a parent to miss work and suffer significant financial hardship, this might also be a consideration. Each family is different, so the Friend of the Court encourages parents to work together to make the best decision for their child while considering each family’s individual circumstances.
When parents cannot reach an agreement as to whether a child should return to school in-
person, does the Friend of the Court provide services to help parents decide?
Yes. Parents can contact the Friend of the Court to ask for help in making this decision when they cannot resolve this issue on their own. The Friend of the Court provides mediation services, which are meetings between a Friend of the Court representative and the parents to discuss their concerns. To use this process, both parents must be agreeable to participating. The meeting will be conducted remotely. You may contact the Friend of the Court at 616-632- 6888 for more information.
What happens if our court order says that we have joint legal custody but we cannot reach
an agreement on which option to choose?
If you and the other parent cannot agree on whether your child should return to in-person school, either party may file a motion to ask the court to make the decision for you. The court will base its decision on the child’s best interests. Given that the school year is fast approaching and the court’s docket gets booked quickly, the Friend of the Court highly suggests that parties first try to resolve the issue between themselves or request mediation.
The other parent has sole legal custody, but I don’t like the decision they are making. Can
still ask the court for help?
Yes. Under certain circumstances the court might change legal custody or otherwise override the other parent’s decision. Depending on the situation, this could be a difficult process so you may want to contact an attorney for assistance, visit www.MichiganLegalHelp.org or see if Mediation is an option.
If you have additional questions about your parenting time order and school changes, please contact the Friend the Court via email at FOC.Mail@kentcountymi.gov or call us at 616 632-6888.
You may still communicate with us by:
- Phone: (616) 632-6888
- E-mail at email@example.com. Please include your name and case number. Your message will be given to a FOC employee, and you will receive a response as soon as possible.
- 2-Way Communication through the MiSupport website at www.michigan.gov/michildsupport.
To access your case online, you may sign up at www.michigan.gov/michildsupport.
Support Payment Options:
- Cash Payment in the FOC Lobby by Appointment: Click here (Appointments will be available beginning August 3)
- Online: www.govpaynow.com or www.misdu.com
- Mail: MiSDU, PO Box 30351, Lansing, MI 48909-7851
- Pay Near Me: CVS Pharmacy, 7-Eleven and Family Dollar
Child Support Enforcement Meeting with a Case Manager?
- To schedule an appointment with a Case Manager, click here to make an appointment
To schedule FOC mediation, please click here.
FOC hearings are limited and will be held remotely via Zoom. If a hearing for your case is scheduled, the notice and petition will be sent to you through e-mail with instructions. It is very important that we have your updated email address. You can update it with us online by completing this form.
If you are not working because of COVID-19
- Please provide proof in writing to FOC from your employer that this is a lay-off or the business closed
- If a lay-off, include the return-to-work date if it is known, and whether the employer will continue to pay you during the lay-off.
- If you are filing for unemployment benefits, let the FOC know this and make payments from these benefits the best you can until you see automatic deductions for support being made.
- If you are seeking employment, report your job search in writing to the FOC monthly until new employment is found, you return to work, or you start receiving benefits.
We have been advised by the Federal Office of Child Support that stimulus payments provided under the CARE (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, Pub. L. 116-136) Act will be intercepted for child support (not spousal support) if the payer owes $150 in past-due support in TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) cases, or $500 in non-TANF cases. This is not a local Friend of the Court decision, and we are unable to exempt any cases. Pursuant to federal rules, the intercepted funds might need to be held for up to six (6) months before distribution. The FOC is not allowed to disclose the reason for a payment being held.
My child is 18 and supposed to graduate in May. Now that the Governor has ordered that schools cannot be physically open, does my support obligation end now?
In support orders that don’t have a specific termination date, many continue support for a child age 18 or older (but not exceeding 19 ½) for so long as the child “is regularly attending high school on a full-time basis with a reasonable expectation of completing sufficient credits to graduate from high school while residing on a full-time basis with the recipient of support…” Although your child may not be physically in a classroom, it is up to the individual school districts to determine what still constitutes “attending.” Until further clarification from the appellate courts or the State Court Administrator’s Office, the Kent County Friend of the Court will continue to follow the same schedule as though school is still in normal session. This means that if the child is 18 and graduates in May, support will terminate on June 1.
Parenting Time Orders and COVID-19
Here are some guidelines:
- Parenting Time Under Shelter In-Place Executive Order: Governor Whitmer’s Executive Order requiring citizens to “shelter in place” beginning March 24, 2020, permits parents to travel as required to permit parenting time exchanges under a valid custody or parenting time order. Please continue to follow your parenting time orders.
- FOC will treat Spring Break as the same block of time it would have been had school shutdowns not occurred.
- FOC will treat Summer Break as the same block of time it would have been had school shutdowns not occurred.
- We encourage parents to work together and make reasonable efforts to ensure that parenting time occurs as ordered, even if exchange locations are impacted by COVID-19 closures/mandates.
- Please put any agreements to alter parenting time for COVID-19 in writing.
- Click here for more information on Parenting Time and COVID-19
FOC Hearings on Parenting Time Violations
Due to the COVID-19 virus, stay home orders and closures, the Court has not been able to conduct hearings as we have before the pandemic. This situation has caused a backlog of hearings that will need hearing dates.
In addition, because of the severity of the virus and lack of testing and resources, the issue of contempt findings will be very complicated.
We strongly recommend families be creative, understanding and flexible regarding parenting time and make use of the Friend of the Court, if assistance is required, with making suitable arrangements for any loss of parenting time due to the pandemic.
Please understand the Friend of the Court will continue to enforce orders as specified in court orders until a subsequent order has changed such specifics.
To serve the Court and the families of Kent County to ensure children are supported, both financially and emotionally.
- FOC Third Annual Report – Implementation of Community Engagement Task Force Recommendations
- Request for E-Mail Communication
- How to Contact FOC
We understand that issues associated with custody, parenting time and child support can often be stressful. The animations below make Friend of the Court processes a little less intimidating.
A big thank you to Grand Valley State University's Suzanne Zack and the students in GVSU's Animation Outreach, North Park Montessori students and staff, and the Grand Rapids Community Media Center for their creativity!
When changes are needed in your parenting time order.
How to make changes to your child support order.
Mediation is used to help resolve issues and make changes to your custody and/or parenting time order.
Various ways to make child support payments.
Visit the FOC website for information, forms, and office hours.
Submit updated changes in health insurance information to FOC within 21 days
The Friend of the Court is the collection, enforcement and investigative arm of the Circuit Court in the area of domestic relations. The action by the office is dictated by court order. Orders are issued by the court after the Judge has made a determination and the written document is signed, then filed with the county clerk. To obtain a domestic relations order from the Court, the issue has to be brought before the Court through formal legal action. This is accomplished through private attorneys, sometimes the prosecuting attorney or by action of one of the parties. The Friend of the Court does not become involved until action is filed with the court.
We are available through email 24-hours a day at firstname.lastname@example.org and by phone at 877-543-2660 or (616) 632-6888, Monday-Friday from 8:00am-4:30pm. Case Managers will be available for walk-in appointments on Tuesdays from 8:00am-11:30am and Thursday from 1:00pm-4:00pm.
From time to time, changes are made in our case manager assignments. Please know that, even though you might work with someone different, your case manager is fully able to assist you.