Divorce is often a stressful process. Not only does the end of a marriage take an emotional toll, dividing property and finances add further stress. However, another potential source of stress is which parent your child will live with until they’re 18 years old and can choose who they live with.

Michigan’s courts use best interest of the child factors like the child’s relationships with you and your spouse, their education, and their personal preference. Another resource a judge uses is a friend of the court interview.

Who is the friend of the court?

The friend of the court is a third-party agency that conducts interviews to gather facts about your family and make custody recommendations to the court based on those facts. However, the judge and not the friend of the court has final say over who receives custody of your child.

What is the interview like?

You and your spouse may interview with the friend of the court together or separately. The friend of the court may choose to interview each parent separately if there is a history of domestic violence or other concerns present.

The interviewer will ask you questions about your relationship with your child, your spouse’s relationship with your child, or how you show affection. They may also request more information like school records, community involvement, and your child’s health.

Depending on the age of your child, the interviewer may request an interview with them to ask them similar questions. Interviewers should not ask the child if they have a parental preference, but they may note that there was a preference if the child revealed one. The report will show your child’s preference unspecified.

What are your rights?

The court must provide you with copies of the interviewer’s findings and recommendations. You or your attorney have the right to object to the report before the judge makes the decision.

Custody is stressful enough without the idea of someone interviewing you and your family about your parenting. While this thought can be unnerving, the interview is a way for the court to gather more information, which could help you in the end.