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Being a Defendant in a Custody Case

Contents

When Your Child’s Other Parent Files a Complaint for Custody
What the Custody Case Process Will Be Like
If your child’s other parent has filed for custody, he or she is the Plaintiff in
the case. You are the Defendant.
Being the defendant in a custody case isn’t like being a defendant in
a criminalcase. It doesn’t mean you did something wrong or you are in
trouble. It doesn’t mean the other parent gets to make all the decisions in
your custody case. It just means the other parent was the one to file the
paperwork first and start the custody case.
It is important that you understand your rights and responsibilities as a party
to a custody case. This article tells you what you can expect.

When Your Child’s Other Parent Files a Complaint for Custodytop
Consider talking to a lawyer
If your child’s other parent has filed a complaint for custody, consider talking
to a lawyer. This is especially important if your child’s other parent has ever
been verbally, emotionally, or physically abusive to you or your children.
You cannot rely on the other parent’s lawyer to protect your interests. This is
true even if you and the other parent agree on most issues. If a lawyer has
filed paperwork for the other parent or has appeared in court for the other
parent, that lawyer cannot represent you.
If you need a lawyer and are low-income, you may qualify for free legal help.
You can use the Find a Lawyer page on this website to look for a lawyer in
your area.

Accepting Service of the Custody Papers
Maybe you know your child’s other parent filed for custody and you are
thinking about trying to avoid service (delivery) of the custody papers.
Avoiding service of custody papers won’t do you any good and could cause
you problems.
Avoiding service doesn’t mean the other parent won’t be able to get custody.
It may cause a slight delay at the beginning of the case, but it can result in
you not knowing what’s happening in the case. The court may also make
important decisions about your child without your input.

and your child. parenting time (visitation). and child support. It contains identifying information about you and the other parent including social security numbers. Complaint for Custody. This is a confidential document and is not placed in a public court file. It also tells the court what the other parent is asking the court to order. The most common orders give temporary custody of children to one parent and order child support payments. and child support arrangements the other parent wants. Your custody case will determine the rights and responsibilities of both parents towards your child. This includes custody (who the child lives with and who makes decisions for the child). It is important to understand what your child’s other parent is asking the court to do. the order is already in effect.Read the Papers Carefully If you have been served with a complaint for custody. and Child Support– The complaint tells the court about you. When you do this the court clerk will issue a summons. your child’s other parent. If you get an ex parte order. Verified Statement – This paper is required to be filed with the Friend of the Court in all custody cases. It contains basic information about your children and where they have lived in the past 5 years. Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act Affidavit – The information in this paper is required in all custody cases. parenting time. read it right away. Ex parte orders can be about many different things. This could happen before you are even notified about the case. The summons is important because it tells the other party how long he or she has to file an answer with the court. Your child’s other parent may or may not serveyou with a copy. Ex parte orders are emergency orders that get decided by the judge without hearing your position. When you are first served custody papers you should get:      Summons – A custody case is started by filing a complaint and other required papers with the court. . The complaint states what custody. When you are served custody papers you might also get: Ex Parte Orders – Your child’s other parent may have filed one or more motions asking the court to order something at the start of the case. Parenting Time. driver’s license information and information about your employment and income.

time and place of the hearing. This may be fine if you agree with all of the other parent’s proposed terms. You can file a response to the motion and appear at the court hearing. If you get a motion for a temporary order it will include a notice of hearing that tells you the date. you must do so within the time stated on the summons. If you want to file an answer to the plaintiff’s complaint for custody and if you want to file a counterclaim for custody. and Child Support will be entered. but the judge has a hearing to decide whether to sign the order. If you do not file an answer by the deadline. and at least three days before the hearing if you have the other parent personally served. But you should consider participating in the case if you want input in the custody. and you’ll end up with a court order based on the other parent’s terms. Parenting Time. Motions for temporary orders are often about the same types of things ex parte orders are about. and child support arrangements. If your case is defaulted. This is 21 days from the date of service if you were served personally (handed the papers).Your child’s other parent may have also filed one or more motions asking the court to enter temporary orders. If you get an ex parte order with your custody papers consider talking to a lawyer. or 28 days from the date of service if you were served by mail or while you were outside of Michigan. . you cannot participate in the case until you file a motion to have the default set aside and the judge enters an order setting the default aside. Decide how you want to respond If your child’s other parent has filed for custody. you can choose to do nothing. If the other parent files any motions in the custody case. the court can enter a default against you.to file an objection to an ex parte order if you don’t agree with it. Your response must be filed with the court at least three days before the hearing. If a default is entered. Pay attention to deadlines There are strict deadlines in a custody case. A default Order Regarding Custody. the other parent can pursue custody without your input. After 14 days the ex parte order becomes a temporary order that will normally last at least as long as it takes for your custody case to become final. You only have a short amount of time – 14 days from the day you are served . a hearing will normally be scheduled. If you do nothing. parenting time. Motions for Temporary Orders . this means that the court can make decisions about your children without your input. Your response must be served on the other parent at least five days before the hearing if you have the other parent served by mail.

you must file and serve it at the same time you file and serve your answer.To participate in the case you must file an answer to the custody complaint by the deadline on the summons. Filing a counterclaim for custody can also help you make sure your custody case goes forward. Friend of the Court Referrals. If you file a counterclaim for custody. Then. you may have to meet with a worker from the Friend of the Court office. Investigations. and child support. Counterclaim You can also file a counterclaim for custody with your answer. if you still want to have the court decide custody for you. which asks the court to decide custody. If you don’t file a counterclaim for custody and your child’s other parent does something to have the original case dismissed. A Friend of the Court recommendation is not a court order unless it is signed by a judge. What the Custody Case Process Will Be Liketop Answer Your answer is a response to each paragraph of the plaintiff’s complaint for custody. parenting time. and child support. You will have an opportunity to object to a recommendation or a . You and your child’s other parent may agree on all the issues in your custody case. parenting time. and Recommendations The Friend of the Court office assists the court in making custody. parenting time. and child support arrangements for the children and says the terms you want. This lets the court know what you would like to happen in your custody case. Or. parenting time. you will have to start over by filing a new case and paying the filing fee. You can also file a counterclaim for custody. Depending on the county where your custody case is filed. Major issues include child custody. you may have a “contested” case because you don’t agree on all the major issues. your custody case will end. You can use our Automated Online Answer to a Custody Complaint Forms to file an answer or an answer and a counterclaim. and child support decisions. In some cases the Friend of the Court will investigate and make a recommendation to the court about custody.

To learn more about child support and the role of the friend of the court.temporary order. where the judge makes a decision because you and the other parent can’t agree on the terms. where you and your child’s other parent decide the terms together. Additional Information about Custody To learn more about custody and parenting time.  Court hearing. parenting time. where you and the other parent meet with a mediator and decide the terms.but you must meet certain requirements to get the court to consider changing an order. If you object. The court continues to have jurisdiction over your children until they turn 18 years old. Final orders can be changed .  Negotiated judgment. andGetting or Changing a Child Support Order. . Finalizing the Custody Case Your custody case might be resolved by:  Default judgment. The "Best Interests of the Child" Factors and Changing a Custody Order. The requirements are different depending on whether you are asking the court to change custody. where you do not file an answer or participate in the case. read the articles Overview of a Michigan Custody Case. the other party can file a motion with the court asking the court to do something about it. and/or child support order is entered. or child support. read the articles Friend of the Court Overview. parenting time. you will have a hearing in front of a judge or referee. Custody and Parenting Time. Also read the Common Questions in the I am a Defendant in a Custody Case toolkit. After a Custody Order is Entered After a custody. If either party fails to do exactly what the order says. Child Support in a Nutshell.  Mediated agreement. both you and the plaintiff must obey the terms of the order.