Friend of the Court

Kristy L. Bray, Friend of the Court

Mon - Fri 8am to 5pm

Circuit Courthouse
208 N Shiawassee Street, 1st Floor
Corunna, MI 48817


Phone:  989-743-2397
Fax:  989-743-2439


Glossary of Terms


  • Postponing or rescheduling a case or court session until another date or time.


  • A person who is no longer deemed to be a minor. In Michigan, a person becomes an adult for criminal cases when they turn 17 [MCL 712A.2(a)]. In most other proceedings, an adult is someone age 18 or older.


  • A written statement of fact that is verified by oath or affirmation before a notary public.



  • A formal written statement by a defendant responding to a civil complaint and setting forth the grounds for defense.


  • A document filed with the court, and provided to other parties, by an attorney advising that the attorney is representing a specific individual.


  • Criminal defendant's first appearance before a judge. The primary purpose is to inform the defendant of what charge he is facing. The judge may also determine an appropriate bail and decide on a request for court-appointed counsel.


  • The total amount of the unpaid obligation owed by a payer of support.

Arrest Warrant:

  • An order issued by a judge or magistrate to a peace officer requiring the arrest of a named person.


  • A lawyer. A person authorized to practice law in a state to represent the legal interests of another person.


  • Bond money paid to a court, by or on behalf of a criminal defendant, as security that, when released from jail, the defendant will appear at future hearings. If another person posts the bail money, then that third party vouches that the defendant will appear at future court dates. Bail can be forfeited if the defendant fails to appear or violates release conditions.


  • A court employee who assists the judge in maintaining order in the courthouse, and who is responsible for the custody of a jury.

Bench Warrant:

  • A contempt warrant issued for a person’s arrest for failure to comply with a court order. A bench warrant can be issued for failure to appear to a hearing, such as a show cause hearing, to which a person’s appearance has been required through a court order or by failing to comply with an enforcement order issued by the Court.

Child Support Review:

  • The Friend of the Court may conduct a review of child support once every 36 months. A support review can be conducted for the following circumstances:1. Based upon a written request from either the Plaintiff or Defendant to the Shiawassee County Friend of the Court for a child support review, not more often than once every 36 months from the date of the last Order or the last review. 2. Based on an Order from the Court for a child support review. 3. Every 36 months if the recipient of support receives public assistance. 4. Upon Friend of the Court initiative under certain case conditions.

Child Support:

  • The court-ordered payment of money for a child. Support may include medical, dental and other health care expenses, child care expenses, and educational expenses. Child support can include child care expenses when the child is less than 12 years old.

Circuit Court:

  • Michigan's highest level trial court, with the broadest range of powers (including hearing appeals from District Court). Circuit Court has three divisions:

  • Criminal (the trial court for all felony crimes)
  • Civil (civil law suits over $25,000, or seeking injunctions or other equitable relief), and
  • Family (every aspect of family law, including divorce, child custody, parenting time/visitation, paternity, adoption, child & spousal support, domestic violence, PPOs, juvenile delinquency, child protection proceedings [parental neglect or abuse], as well as emancipation of minors, name changes, and waiver of parental consent to abortions).
  • The Friend of the Court office is a division of the Circuit Court.
  • Michigan has 57 Circuits, covering all 83 counties. Circuit Court judges are elected on a non-partisan ballot to six-year terms.

Consent Order/Stipulation:

  • An order in which the provisions are agreed upon by both parties involved. Some consent orders may require the signatures of both parties and possibly for those signatures to be notarized.

Contempt of Court:

  • Failure to do what the court orders without a reasonable cause.


  •  A government entity authorized to resolve legal disputes. Judges sometimes use "court" to refer to themselves in the third person, as in "the court has read the briefs." Courts and judges are part of the Judicial Branch of government.

Custodial Parent:

  • The party with whom the child resides and who has either sole legal custody or joint custody with designation as the primary caretaker.


  • Please see Joint Legal Custody, Joint Physical Custody, Sole Physical Custody, and/or Sole Custody.


  •  A person who has been formally charged with committing a crime.

Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS):

  • The State of Michigan agency providing public assistance to families. This agency is responsible for the Office of Child Support and the SDU. It is formerly known as the Family Independence Agency or the Michigan Department of Social Services. Learn more about this agency at


  • Paying out of collected child support funds.

Docket/ Case Docket:

  •  A written list of all important acts done in court in the conduct of an individual case, from beginning to end. This term is also commonly, but improperly, applied to the case calendar (a list of cases set for a hearing by a court on a specific day).

Docket Number:

  • Number assigned by the court's clerk to identify each case.

Domestic Violence:

  • Domestic violence is a learned pattern of physical, verbal, sexual and/or emotional behaviors in which one person in a relationship uses force and intimidation to dominate or control the other person. The partners may be married or not married; heterosexual, gay or lesbian; living together, separated or dating. Domestic violence occurs in all ages, races, genders and social classes.
  • The violence takes many forms and can happen all the time or once in a while. Examples of domestic violence are:
  • physical assault or abuse --- hitting, pushing, shoving, slapping, choking, punching, kicking, grabbing, beating, throwing her down, tripping, twisting arms, biting, using a weapon threatened physical harm
  • sexual assault or abuse --- unwanted, forced sexual activity
  • stalking
  • intimidation
  • emotional abuse --- mind games, name-calling, put-downs, making the victim feel bad about herself
  • jealousy --- a sign of possessiveness and lack of trust
  • controlling behavior and forced isolation (from family or friends) --- controlling what the victim does, who the victim sees or talks to, where the victim goes, relocating to a remote area, etc.
  • economic abuse --- preventing the victim from getting or holding a job, and controlling the purse-strings by withholding money, taking her earned money, giving her an allowance, making her ask for money, etc.

Domestic Relations Action:

  • Divorce, paternity, custody, parenting time, or support cases.


  • The state of residence for the minor child(ren). If the custodial parent wishes to relocate the minor child(ren) to another state, he/she must first obtain permission from the Court.

Emancipation "by operation of law":

  • Occurs when the minor (a) turns 18 years old, (b) is validly married, or (c) is on active military duty or is in police custody and the parent's consent is not available.
  • Emancipation "by order of the court": A minor who is 16 or 17 years old can petition the Circuit Court's Family Division to seek emancipation, but must demonstrate that he/she can manage his/her financial and social affairs (including but not limited to proof of employment or other means of support, and housing), and attach affidavits from a physician, psychologist, therapist, nurse, clergy, school administrator, school counselor, teacher, law enforcement officer, duly regulated child care provider, or certified social worker with personal knowledge of the minor's circumstances, and a belief that emancipation is in the minor's best interests. Receipt of General Assistance or ADC-F is not considered qualified "other means of support", and cannot be offered as proof of self-support by the minor. The minor must also prove that the parent/guardian either does not object to emancipation, or is not supporting the minor. The court must hold a hearing on the petition and determine (by a preponderance of the evidence) that the minor has met all of the legal requirements for emancipation, understands the rights and responsibilities of emancipation, and has shown that emancipation is in his/her best interest.
  • An emancipation obtained by fraud is voidable. Voiding such an order does not affect an obligation, responsibility, right, or interest that arose during the period of time the order was in effect.
  • The minor or a parent or guardian of the minor may appeal to the Court of Appeals the Family Court's grant or denial of an emancipation petition.
  • The Friend of the Court has no official role in an emancipation petition hearing.


  • Includes such things as the testimony of a witness, documents, or other items presented to a court to prove a fact.

Ex parte:

  • Ex parte matters are usually temporary orders or expedited orders (like a restraining order or temporary custody) pending a formal hearing or an emergency request for a continuance.

Ex-Parte Order:

  •  An order entered without giving the party affected by the order an opportunity to be heard in court before the order is issued. An emergency order used when one party could be irreparably harmed by waiting for a hearing date. The orders are generally short-term, and hearings are scheduled soon after the order is entered to give the other party a chance to be heard.

Extraordinary Health Care Expenses:

  • The support recipient’s out-of-pocket expenses that exceed the children’s ordered annual ordinary medical expense amount and any uninsured medical expense paid by the support payer.

Federal Tax Refund Offset:

  • A program in which a payer’s arrears are certified to the IRS so that the payer’s tax refund can be intercepted and applied to his or her past due support obligation. A federal tax refund offset will first be applied to any outstanding arrears owed to the State of Michigan and only after that debt is settled will the refund be applied to arrears owed to the custodial party. Tax Offset Process

Friend of the Court:

  • The Friend of the Court is a division of the Circuit Court; there is at least one office for each County. The Friend of the Court is NOT a division of the Prosecuting Attorney's office. The Friend of the Court Act (1982 PA 294) makes the office responsible for: investigating, reporting and making recommendations to the Circuit Court on custody, parenting time ("visitation") and the amount of child support providing mediation sessions to resolve child custody and parenting time disagreements collecting, recording and sending out all support payments ordered by the Court initiating enforcement of all custody, support and parenting time ("visitation") orders entered by the Court.

 Guardian Ad Litem:

  •  A person appointed by the court to protect the legal interests of an infant or an incompetent adult, or a missing person who is involved in a court case. The court will appoint a guardian ad litem in cases of juvenile abuse or neglect. The "GAL" may be an attorney.

Income Withholding:

  • A Notice and Order served on a payer’s source of income with the intent to garnish support payments. The source of income is required to comply with the withholding request and forward the payments directly to the State Disbursement Unit (SDU).

Interactive Voice Response System (IVR):

  • A phone system that provides callers with information and answers to frequently asked questions such as recent payment or enforcement information. The IVR also serves as a link between payers and the Friend of Court or SDU. For Shiawassee County MISDU please call: (888) 543-2660 county code 744.


  • Title IV-D of the Social Security Act, the federal legislation that created the child support program.

Joint Legal Custody:

  • Means that parents will communicate and cooperate with one another and attempt to reach mutual decisions regarding major issues affecting their children. This decision-making process includes, but is not limited to: major medical decisions, educational decisions, and religious upbringing, if any.

Joint Physical Custody:

  • Means that children live with one parent part of the time and the other parent part of the time. This time does not have to be equal. The parent who has care of the children at any given time is responsible for routine decisions regarding the children.


  • Government official with authority to decide lawsuits brought before courts.


  •  The power of the court to decide a case before it, which depends on the type of case and how closely connected the parties are to the county where the court is located. [See also venue.]

Kidnapping (Parental):

  • Occurs when a natural or adoptive parent takes or retains a child for more than 24 hours with intent to detain or conceal the child from the parent who has legal custody or visitation rights at the time, the person who adopted the child, or the person who had lawful charge of the child. NOTE: The defendant may raise an affirmative defense that he/she took the child to protect the child from an immediate and actual threat of physical or mental harm, abuse or neglect.


  •  An attorney. A person authorized to practice law in a state to represent the legal interests of another person.

Legal Residence:

  • The home address for either parent whose order grants joint legal custody. If either parent wishes to move more than 100 miles from the other parent, he/she must obtain permission from the Court.

Medical Support:

  • The Court ordered obligation to provide health insurance coverage and/or payment of medical expenses.

Michigan Compiled Laws (MCL):

  • Volumes of books containing the official version of Michigan statutes enacted by the state Legislature. MCLs are published by the Legislative Service Bureau.

Michigan Court Rules (MCR):

  • Rules adopted by the Michigan Supreme Court to govern procedures in all courts.

Michigan State Disbursement Unit (MiSDU):


  • A formal written request that a court take a specified action. A motion is sometimes called a “petition.”

Non-Custodial Parent:

  •  The natural or adoptive parent who is absent from the child(ren)’s home and who usually has a court ordered obligation to support the child(ren), also referred to as the payer or obligor.


  • Taking exception to a statement or procedure in trial. Used to call the court's attention to improper evidence or procedure.
  • Objection Overruled - a judge's rejection of an objection as invalid.
  • Objection Sustained - support or agree with an objection. Used by the judge to indicate agreement with a motion or request.


  • Every direction of a judge or Court to a person, made or entered in writing and not included in a judgment.


  • The number of nights that your child spends at each parent’s house.

Parenting Time:

  • A provision of a Court Order specifying the schedule in which the minor child(ren) will spend time with the non-custodial parent. The provision may indicate specific days of the week with start and stop times, it may reference the standard Friend of Court parenting time schedule, or it may reflect “reasonable” as agreed upon by the parties.


  • Fatherhood; a legal father for a child.


  • The person or agency entitled to receive support payments (also known as “recipient”).


  • The person who must pay support (also known as the “obligor”).


  •  The person who originally filed a court action.

Public Assistance:

  • Cash assistance (FIP) provided under the social welfare act, medical assistance, child daycare (CDC), food assistance (FAP) to a parent, or if foster care is or was provided to a child who is the subject of the case.

Prosecuting Attorney:

  • The term Michigan uses for a Prosecutor.


  • An elected or appointed official vested with authority by a constitution, statute or ordinance to represent the public interest and take legal action against persons violating state or local criminal laws. Michigan's prosecutors are known as "Prosecuting Attorneys". In other states they are called District Attorneys, State's Attorneys, County Attorneys, Commonwealth's Attorneys, or other titles. 


  • An order from the Court for the Friend of the Court to review a provision(s) of an existing order with regard to the current circumstances surrounding the issue and determine whether the order should be modified.


  • The permanent home to which a person, even when temporarily living elsewhere, always intends to return.

Show Cause Hearing:

  • A Court Order demanding the appearance of a party who has violated a provision of a previous Court Order. The party whose appearance is required is given the opportunity to tell the Court why he/she should not be held in contempt for failure to comply with the order. The Court will then determine an appropriate sentence.

Social Security Administration (SSA):

  • Administers two programs that provide benefits based on disability: The Social Security disability insurance program (title II of the Social Security Act (Act)) and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program (title XVI of the Act).

Social Security Disablity Insurance (SSDI):

  • Social Security Disability Insurance is funded through payroll taxes. SSDI recipients are considered "insured" because they have worked for a certain number of years and have made contributions to the Social Security trust fund in the form of FICA Social Security taxes. SSDI candidates must be younger than 65 and have earned a certain number of "work credits." (To learn more, see our article on SSDI and work credits.) After receiving SSDI for two years, a disabled person will become eligible for Medicare. 
  • Under SSDI, a disabled person's spouse and children dependents are eligible to receive partial dependent benefits, called auxiliary benefits. However, only adults over the age of 18 can receive the SSDI disability benefit.
  • There is a five-month waiting period for benefits, meaning that the SSA won't pay you benefits for the first five months after you become disabled. The amount of the monthly benefit after the waiting period is over depends on your earnings record, much like the Social Security retirement benefit.

Sole Custody:

  • Means that the children live with one parent and that parent is responsible for making major decisions regarding the children.

Sole Physical Custody:

  • Means that the children live primarily with one parent.

State bar of Michigan:

  • An association for attorneys licensed to practice law in Michigan. All attorneys, including prosecutors, must be a member of the State Bar in order to practice law in Michigan. Visit their web site at

State Tax Offset:

  • A program in which the Michigan State Treasury Department is requested to intercept a payer’s tax refund so that it can be applied to his or her past due support obligation.


  • An agreement between opposing parties on any matter relating to the case, including case facts. Courts must approve stipulations to take legal effect.


  • A court order requiring a person to appear in court and give testimony as a witness, and/or to produce documents. An employer cannot act upon or threaten to discharge or discipline a witness for missing work to testify in court when subpoenaed.


  • A notice from the court that someone has sued you

Supplemental Security Income (SSI):

  • Supplemental Security Income is a program that is strictly need-based, according to income and assets, and is funded by general fund taxes (not from the Social Security trust fund). SSI is called a "means-tested program," meaning it has nothing to do with work history, but strictly with financial need. To meet the SSI income requirements, you must have less than $2,000 in assets (or $3,000 for a couple) and a very limited income.
  • Disabled people who are eligible under the income requirements for SSI are also able to receive Medicaid in the state they reside in. Most people who qualify for SSI will also qualify for food stamps, and the amount an eligible person will receive is dependent on where they live and the amount of regular, monthly income they have. SSI benefits will begin on the first of the month when you first submit your application.

Temporary Payment Coupon:

  • The pre-printed notifications returned with each payment. The coupon is used to identify the payer making the payment and the account for which the payment is intended. MiSDU Temporary Payment Coupons (NOTE: If a payer has more than one case, he/she cannot choose where a payment is intended with a coupon. The payment or payments will be individually allocated across each of the payer’s cases.) 


  • The official record of the testimony adduced in a trial or hearing.


  •  The geographic location (e.g., city or county) where an event occurred. A "change of venue" happens when a case is moved to a court in another county or to a court having other jurisdictional powers ... generally because the case should have been filed there originally, or for the convenience of the parties/witnesses, or because a fair trial cannot be had in the original court's location.
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