Friend of the Court approval is a many splendored thing

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By Marie E. Matyjaszek

For family law attorneys, there are few things more frustrating than reaching a settlement, collecting signatures (which can take forever), submitting the order to the Friend of the Court for approval, and getting a big, fat denial. You’ve got to redraft, revise, renegotiate, resign, re-everything so you can obtain that golden seal of approval.

Okay, so it’s not that dramatic, but it sure can feel that way when you are in the domestic trenches. MCR 3.211(G) states that the court “may require that the judgment or order be submitted to the friend of the court for review to determine that it contains the provisions required by subrules (C), (D), (E), and (F).” Those sub-rules detail the mandated language for judgments and orders that contain custody and support terms and spell out what forms the FOC needs for the file.

Local administrative orders also can provide court requirements, including FOC approval. While you may think the process isn’t necessary, or it’s overly cumbersome, but it is vitally important to the processing of your orders.

The FOC processes and enforces your various family law orders, so if things are missing or incorrect, the ability to do so drastically decreases. When a FOC attorney reviews the proposed order, he or she can spot any errors and request corrections before the judge signs off. They often consult other departments to ensure it meets their requirements as well.

If mandated provisions are excluded, or if the order contains language that is not appropriate, the judge may refuse to sign it. Once an order is entered and a FOC worker begins to process it, any existing errors may require the parties to submit an amended order correcting the problem. Among other things, it can delay the modification or commencement of support, which is a huge financial headache for the parties. It costs more time, and potentially money if the parties are using attorneys, to rectify the situation. Most importantly, laws and court rules help protect your rights, and without them, you and your family could suffer unintended consequences.

Finality is critical in helping people move on, and the ability to efficiently process court orders from start to finish helps accomplish that finality quickly. The next time you submit orders for approval, remember that the Friend of the Court wants the orders to be approved as much as you do.

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 The author is an Attorney Referee at the Washtenaw County Friend of the Court, the views expressed in this column are her own. Email her at matyjasz@hotmail.com.  


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