by Kate Weaver, Oakland County
Note: all articles in this issue were drafted by their authors in July 2022.
Thank you to all who attended our annual meeting on June 3, 2022. We had our elections and your new Board has begun their journey in supporting RAM for next twoyears. Each Board member has numerous goals for this great organization and will work hard towards achieving those goals. Those goals include increasing participation with the membership, migrating the listserv to a Google Group, getting our new website up and running, getting our meetings and conference back in person, increasing information and participation for Juvenile Referees, becoming an SCAO-approved legal-education provider, and MORE. We will work tirelessly in these efforts. Please join us; you do not have to be on the Board to contribute!
Let me introduce you to the RAM 2022-2024 Board. Each member brings key experience, network, and leadership that is critical to ensuring our organization remains at the forefront of information, guidance, training, and expertise, as is required in our important work. Their service to this organization is so appreciated.
By Coryelle Christie (1), Genesee County
In family law, Judges, lawyers, and litigants are always trying to find new ways to assist families in a manner that avoids constant litigation. Litigation takes time and resources from the Court, which is already overburdened. In addition, litigation is very hard on families. While a trial is an option, it is usually a very invasive, unpleasant experience that can leave a family even more broken than before. For these reasons, alternative dispute resolution methods can be a great solution for many families. Courts have many options, such as FIG conferences at the FOC, mediation, collaborative law, or arbitration. The use of these methods vary by county.
In some counties, courts and litigants have started utilizing guardian ad litems (GAL), lawyer-guardian ad litems (LGAL), and parenting coordinators with greater regularity. While these roles have existed within the law for some time, an increase in use has been seen in recent years. Along with the greater use, however, comes confusion regarding what these roles are and how they can be used.
Part of the confusion in defining these three roles is that the term guardian and guardian ad litem are used throughout several areas of law. Therefore, many may have trouble distinguishing which laws apply to which role. Further, while there is some guidance for these roles in statute, not all are well defined, and there is not a large body of case law.
BY PETER M. KULAS-DOMINGUEZ, KENT COUNTY
BY Jenny McNeill, muskegon county
This bill amendment indicates a complaint for divorce is not made available on public record until a proof of service is filed or 92 days have expired from the date the complaint was filed, whichever occurs first.
Status: This bill was passed and became effective October 1, 2022.
BY RYAN O'NEIL, Oakland County
Smith v Rotterdam, unpublished per curiam opinion of the Court of Appeals, issued January 27, 2022 (Docket No. 357940)
Dueling post-judgment motions to modify custody. The trial court found that the minor child had an established custodial environment with both parties, applied the clear and convincing standard, and found that four (4) best interest factors favored Father while none favored Mother and granted Father’s motion to sole physical custody. Mother appealed the finding that the minor child had an established custodial environment with both parents, but the Court of Appeals rejected (and was seemingly confused) by this argument since the trial court applied the higher clear and convincing standard. Second, while the trial court did not find either a change in circumstance or proper cause, it was not necessary for them to do so since the parties were seeking to modify a temporary order. The Court opined,
BY ARIANA HEATH, GENESEE COUNTY
In re ZJF, March 10, 2022, No. 356525, Wayne Circuit Court – Juvenile was charged with CSC 1st and adjudicated at a jury trial. Juvenile moved for a new trial, alleging the prosecutor improperly suppressed material evidence in a Brady violation. Juvenile alleged the prosecutor withheld a police report from Livonia which included a statement from the victim in which she told investigators the encounter might have been consensual. Juvenile argued he was denied a fair trial because this evidence could have been used for impeachment purposes. The trial court found that the information in the Livonia police report was simply quoting another police report from the Westland police department and because the juvenile had access to the Westland report, there was no violation.
COA affirmed the trial court. For a Brady violation to occur, one, the evidence must be favorable to the accused because it is exculpatory or because it is impeaching; two, that evidence must have been suppressed by the State, either willfully or inadvertently; and three, prejudice must have ensued. COA ruled no Brady violation occurred and a new trial was not warranted. The Livonia report largely concerned events occurring after and unrelated to the instant case. The relevant portion quoted a report from the Westland police department, not a direct statement of the victim. The Westland report was provided to the juvenile through discovery before trial. Juvenile had the necessary information to impeach the victim. COA further stated the Livonia report was inadmissible hearsay and therefore was not favorable nor material evidence under Brady. And the Livonia report was double hearsay, as it was quoting the Westland report. Because the report is inadmissible, it cannot meet the first prong of Brady.
BY SUSAN MURPHY, JACKSON COUNTY
agnes jury, mason county
For the summer newsletter, we meet one of our newest referees, Agnes Jury, who has an international background, being a citizen of Poland and Canada. She is the domestic relations referee in Ludington, located in Mason County.
Agnes was born and raised in Poland until she was 12 years old. (That would be just a few months before the fall of communism in Poland for you history buffs.) Her parents divorced, so her mother brought Agnes and her older brother over to live in Canada. Agnes remained in Canada until she graduated from University earning a degree in Cultural Anthropology. Upon her graduation, Agnes returned to Poland in hopes of resuming a life there.
BY KATE WEAVER, OAKLAND COUNTY