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 child. Some people incorrectly believe they do not need to talk to their own lawyer if the other parent already has one. However, you can’t rely on the other parent’s lawyer to protect your interests, even if you and the other parent agree on most issues. A lawyer can only represent one of you. If a lawyer has filed paperwork for the other parent or has appeared in court for the other parent, that person 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” function on this website to look for legal help in your area.
Pay attention to deadlines. There are strict deadlines in a custody case. If you want to file an answer and/or a counterclaim to the complaint for custody, you must do so within the time limits stated on the summons. This is 21 days from the date of service if you were served personally (handed the papers). It is 28 days from the date of service if you were served by mail or while you were outside of Michigan.
If you do not file an answer by the deadline the court can enter a default against you. If a default is entered, you cannot participate in the case until you file a motion to have the default set aside. This means the court can make decisions about custody, parenting time, and child support without your input.
If your child’s other parent files any motions in the custody case, a hearing will normally be scheduled. You have the option to file a timely response to the motion and appear at the court hearing.
Decide how you want to respond. If your child’s other parent has filed for custody, you can choose to do nothing. If you do nothing, the other parent can pursue custody without your input, and you could end up with a court order based on the other parent’s terms. A default Order Regarding Custody, Parenting Time, and Child Support can be entered. This may be fine if you agree with all of the other parent’s proposed terms. But, if you want input in the custody, parenting time, and child support arrangements you should consider participating in the case.
To participate in the case you must file an answer to the custody complaint by the deadline on the summons. You can also file a counterclaim for custody, which asks the court to decide custody, parenting time and child support arrangements for the children and states the terms you want. If you file a counterclaim for custody, you must file and serve it at the same time you file and serve your answer.
You can use our Automated Online Custody Answer and Counterclaim Forms to file an answer, or an answer and a counterclaim.