Friend of the Court
David Oostdyk, Referee
301 W.  Upton
Reed  City, MI  49677
Tel: (231) 832-6131
Fax: (231) 832-6158

Court Orders

When a court makes a decision, it must sign a written order summarizing the decision.  Someone must prepare the order.  Usually, one of the attorneys prepares the order, but sometimes the judge prepares it.  Either way, an order is not enforceable until a judge signs it and someone files the signed order with the county clerk. 

A referee can only recommend an order and prepare it; the recommended order does not become enforceable until a judge signs it or until it enters because neither party objected within a certain amount of time.  If you disagree with an order and want to challenge it, your options include filing a motion for a rehearing (by the judge who issued the order) or filing an appeal (to a higher court).  You  cannot change an order by filing a grievance or by complaining to other government agencies.

Preliminary Orders
Courts sometimes enter temporary orders that remain in effect only until the parties have an opportunity to present more detailed evidence and arguments at a later hearing.  This often happens in divorce cases.
ExParte Orders (temporary orders entered at the request of one party before any formal hearing)
A judge will enter an ex parte order without the other party present when the judge believes that serious harm will occur if the judge defers issuing any orders until the opposing party has the opportunity to speak with the judge.  Ex parte orders usually are intended to keep the situation stable until the judge can hear from both parties.  A party who disagrees with an ex parte order may file a written objection to the order or file a motion asking the court to change or cancel the order.  Even if an objection or motion is filed, the ex parte order will remain in effect until it is changed by the court.

When an ex parte order deals with custody, parenting time, or child support, the order will include a notice that a written objection or a motion to change the order may be filed within 14 days.  If a party files an objection, the Friend of the Court will try to help the parties settle the dispute without going to court.  If the parties cannot agree, the Friend of the Court will provide the forms and instructions that a party who is not represented by an attorney will need to schedule a court hearing.
Temporary and Final Orders
After the court decides a motion challenging an ex parte order, it will enter a temporary order with instructions that the parties must follow until a final judgment order (or a modified temporary order) is entered. 

Orders including judgment orders that deal with custody, parenting time, and child support can be changed, but only the court can modify an order; the Friend of the Court cannot.  Normally, a court will change an order if both parties have agreed to the change.  Otherwise, the court will modify an order only after one party (or the Friend of the Court) files a motion and the court holds a hearing on the motion.

The parties’ agreement to change a previous court order will be recognized by the court and the Friend of the Court only after the judge signs and enters a new order that approves the agreement.  Merely telling or writing to tell a Friend of the Court employee or a Department of Human Services worker that the parties have agreed to something cannot change the court’s previous order.  Sometimes, the law requires the Friend of the Court to ask the court to change an order. 

Parties’ agreements are only recognized by the court and the Friend of the Court when they are entered as an order of the court. Simply notifying a Friend of the Court employee or a Department of Human Resources worker of an agreement does not change the court order.  Sometimes, the law requires the Friend of the Court to ask the court to change an order. 
Referee Decisions
A referee is an attorney who is appointed by the chief judge of the circuit court to preside over hearings involving domestic relations issues.  A referee hearing is similar to a hearing before a judge.  The referee’s decision may have immediate effect.  A party may file an objection to a referee’s determination and request a de novo hearing before the presiding judge.  The objection and a request for a hearing must be in writing and must be filed with the circuit court clerk within 21 days after the referee’s recommendation is mailed. 

Objections in Osceola County are filed using an Objection to Referee's Recommended Order Form.
Reconciliations and Dismissals
Not every case ends with separated parents.  If parties are trying to work out their differences and wish to have enforcement of their order stopped, they may file a motion with the family division of the court to request an order to suspend automatic enforcement.  Enforcement of a support obligation cannot be stopped except by court order.  

If the parties wish to stop all further action on a case, they must file a proposed order of dismissal with the court and provide a copy to the Friend of the Court.  In that situation, when the State of Michigan has provided financial assistance to the parties’ children or spouse while the case was pending, the support payer must pay any previously-ordered child or spousal support to the State of Michigan.  This reimbursement may be less than the amount of assistance, but it cannot be more.  The exact support amount will  depend on how much support the court’s order required.  Finally, before the case may be dismissed, the support payer must pay any amounts owed to the court or the county.  If those requirements are met, the court will sign an order dismissing the case. 
Enforcing Orders When One of the Parents Leaves Michigan
The obligation to pay child support does not end when a parent leaves Michigan, even if it is the custodial parent and the parties’ children who move.  Both parents must tell the Friend of the Court whenever they move.  The support payer must continue to pay support and the Friend of the Court must continue to enforce the court order. 

If a support payer leaves Michigan and stops paying as ordered, there are laws that allow Michigan courts to have their support orders enforced in other states.  For example, every state has passed the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA), a law that allows one state’s court to set and enforce support obligations when the parents live in or earn an income in different states.  Under UIFSA, a court in another state may be required to use its laws to withhold the payer’s income, enforce the order, set or modify a support order, or assist with finding the payer’s assets.