In divorce actions, a referral to the FOC for a referee hearing can be made by a stipulation of the parties or by court order. Referees typically submit recommendations on the issues of custody, support, parenting time, health care, and child care in divorce cases involving minor children, prior to the entry of a final judgment of divorce. However, the court may refer other issues for a referee hearing.
The hearing is private and not held in public, which has appeal to many parties. The
process is formal in that Michigan Rules of Evidence are followed, testimony is taken from both lay and expert witnesses as relevant, and a record is made. If the parties are represented, attorneys will serve as advocates and present the client's case.
The private, evaluative, and preliminary determination(s) of the referee may be an impetus to further settlement discussions or may reinvigorate settlement discussions that have come to an impasse.