Friend of the Court is an administrative agency that is heavily involved in all family law cases involving minor children, but few people know who they are, or what they do before they step through the door of their office for the first time. Just whose friend are they, whose best interest are they looking out for, and why do I need to talk to them at all? These might be just a few of the questions you have if you're facing a family law matter for the first time, which can be one of the most uncertain and traumatic events in life. Hopefully the information below takes away some of that uncertainty, however, feel free to contact our office if you have any further questions.
Some people ask whether they have to bother with Friend of the Court, and the quick answer is YES. Friend of the Court gets involved right off the bat with all cases involving minor children to help deal with any issues pertaining to the children's health, safety, custody, child support, and parenting time. They are a neutral third party that works with the Family Court system to resolve issues in the best interests of the children. In the event of a divorce, Friend of the Court will schedule what is called a Conciliation Conference with the parties within 30 days of filing the Complaint. This is just a fancy term for mediation, where they attempt to talk with both parties, and see if there is any middle ground they can agree on. Typically, this conference can last anywhere from 1 to 4 hours, depending on the parties. If the parties agree on all issues regarding the children, then Friend of the Court will draft an Order, and that will be binding on the parties. If the parties cannot agree, then Friend of the Court will draft a recommendation, to be signed by the Judge, which will also be binding. It is important to note that the decisions made by Friend of the Court must be followed. If you are unsure about the recommendation, do not sign anything at the Friend of the Court, and consult an attorney.
Friend of the Court operates a little differently in every county, but rest assured, their job is to safeguard the children and work with both parties to resolve differences in an agreeable manner. In the event that both parties are still unable to come to a resolution, then whatever issues are left proceed to the Court system.