6 Steps to Settling Child Custody in Michigan

In a settlement, parents work together to decide all the issues in their case, including custody, parenting time and child support. Parents submit their agreement (also called a consent judgment) to the court for a judge's approval.

Settling is considered the best way to resolve a case because parents generally have more success following court orders when they developed those orders. Plus, settling is typically faster, less expensive and easier on children than litigation.

In order to get your settlement approved, it must serve the children's best interests, based on the 12 factors in Michigan custody decisions.

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For divorce and separate maintenance (legal separation), courts can't issue final orders until a case is six months old. Parents can file a settlement earlier to have it finalized right after the six-month mark, or they can ask the court to waive the waiting period, explaining why it would benefit the children.

Parents who aren't married don't have a waiting period.

Deciding a settlement before filing your case

You have the option to submit a settlement agreement when you file your case, expediting the legal process. Parents who know from the outset that they want to settle often take this route.

These parents frequently use a mediator from a private practice or a community dispute resolution center to help them reach an agreement, or turn to collaborative law.

Deciding a settlement after filing your case

Most parents reach a settlement agreement after one of them files a case, which officially begins the litigation process.

Once the other parent responds to the filing, the Friend of the Court (FOC) office helps the parents try to reach a settlement through conciliation and, often, court-ordered mediation.

Steps to settling

Step 1: Complete paperwork

If you're working with a professional, they'll help you complete your settlement paperwork with the other parent.

First, create your parenting schedule and child support agreement. You can add an optional parenting plan to manage legal custody. (For all of these requirements, you can use templates from the Custody X Change app or from the court.)

Then, fill out either a Notice of Hearing and Motion (for divorce and separation cases) or a Notice of Hearing (for unmarried parents). Any noncustody issues in your case may require additional paperwork.

You'll need multiple copies of every document. The court clerk may make copies for you in the next step (for a charge).

Step 2: File paperwork and schedule a hearing

Turn in your settlement paperwork at the court clerk's office. If you still need to open a case, file your initiating paperwork now, as well. If you already have a case open, the plaintiff (whoever opened the case) must be the one to file the settlement.

Depending on your county, you may have to pay filing fees to settle (unless the court has approved a Fee Waiver Request).

The clerk will schedule a hearing to get the settlement approved. If you're not married to the other parent, it will be on the court's next available date. If you're divorcing or legally separating, it will be at least six months after you opened the case, unless the court waives the waiting period for you.

Step 3: Notify the other parent

The plaintiff has to serve the other parent with notice of the settlement hearing at least nine days before it occurs. Unlike when you serve filing paperwork, you can deliver or mail the notice yourself. Afterward, the plaintiff must file a Proof of Service form with the court clerk.

Possible: Get Friend of the Court approval

Your county may require the FOC to approve your agreement if that office wasn't already involved in drafting it.

Typically, parents can bring a copy of the agreement to the FOC anytime before their settlement hearing. However, some offices require an appointment, so check with yours.

Step 4: Attend settlement hearing

Procedures for a settlement hearing (sometimes called a consent hearing) vary by county. Generally, the hearing only lasts 10 to 15 minutes, but you'll probably have to wait your turn, since multiple hearings get scheduled in one time block. The entire process could take several hours.

The plaintiff must attend the hearing and may have to answer questions or read a testimony stating the facts of the case. The defendant (the other parent) can usually choose whether or not to attend.

During your hearing, the judge reviews your agreement to ensure it's in children's best interests and meets legal requirements. If the judge approves, they'll sign your final orders.

Step 5: File final orders

Immediately after your hearing, the plaintiff must file the signed final orders with the court clerk. Your settlement is not complete until you do this.

Step 6: Serve final orders

The plaintiff is required to serve a copy of the final orders to the defendant. If the defendant comes to the settlement hearing, you can give them the copy then. Otherwise, mail the paperwork or deliver it personally.

Afterward, submit another Proof of Service to the court. Your case is now closed.

After you've settled

The custody journey continues after you receive final orders. Now your responsibilities include:

To do all of this and more, use Custody X Change.

The online app's customizable calendars, parent-to-parent messaging, expense tracker and parenting plan template will make life after settlement as straightforward as they made settlement itself.

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