There are three types of referees: Juvenile Court, Friend of the Court, and a hybrid Juvenile/Friend of the Court referee. Referees are judicial officers who preside over hearings, consider testimony, and enter recommendations or adjudications. All referees are appointed (as opposed to judges, who are elected). Referees are attorneys (unless grandfathered in prior to 1993) who are in good standing with the State Bar of Michigan. A referee is considered a “judge” for purposes of the Judicial Canons, Rule 9.201.
Friend of the Court referees may hear all domestic relations motion within the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court (typical cases include child support, custody and parenting time). The lone exception to this rule is that referees may not modify an existing spousal support order (though they may set the original spousal support amount). FOC referees make recommendations that become an order of the court. Objections may be filed within 21 days for an “appeal” before the judge.
Juvenile Court referees preside over hearings designed to protect children at abuse and neglect” hearings. Children may be protected by being placed into foster homes. Juvenile referees also hear “juvenile delinquency” cases when minors violate criminal statues. Juvenile referees make adjudications that become the order of the court.
A hybrid Juvenile/FOC referee is simply a referee who operates at any given time as either a Juvenile Court referee or a FOC referee.