After the Friend of the Court makes a recommendation, either party may request a de novo hearing or a hearing “from the beginning” with the trial court judge. This right is codified in Michigan Compiled Laws section 552.507(4).
Simply put, the power of the Friend of the Court is limited to making recommendations for the trial court to review. However, if no objections to a Friend of the Court recommendation are made, the Friend of the Court Recommendation will become an Order of the Court.
The first step is a threshold question which asks, what has changed since the entry of the last court order under Vodvarka; The second step requires determining the existence of an established custodial environment and the burden of proof. The third step is to apply the best interest factors using the appropriate burden of proof.
Under MCL 552.507(4), if a party timely objects to a referee’s recommendation, the trial court “shall hold a de novo hearing.” The Michigan Court of Appeals further decided that a trial court cannot simply review the record created at the referee hearing, however the trial court can impose reasonable restrictions on duplicative evidence (e.g. only allowing new evidence).