Q: I recently filed a motion to change parenting time. I noticed that it has been referred to a family court referee. What does that mean?

A: In many counties in Michigan, Family Court judges are referring motions regarding parenting time, support, and other post-judgment matters to referees. There is a statute in Michigan that specifically authorizes a judge to refer hearings to a referee for determination.

You should prepare for a referee hearing just like you would prepare if the matter is being heard by a judge. Most referee hearings are held in the courtroom on the record. The referees are in most cases licensed attorneys with considerable experience in family law. During a referee hearing, you are allowed to present sworn testimony, and offer exhibits into evidence just like you would before a judge. The real difference between a referee hearing and a judicial hearing is that, in most cases, the referee issues a recommended order that incorporates an objection period, usually 21 days, during which a party who disagrees with the referee‘s recommendations can file a request for a judicial hearing. While the objection period does provide a safety net in the event you are faced with an erroneous ruling, it is important that you treat a referee hearing just as you would a hearing before the judge as recommendations made by a referee eventually become binding orders of the court.

For more information about modifying parenting time, click here.