Child Support in Michigan

The State of Michigan defines child support as the court ordered payment of money from one parent to another for the purpose of caring for a child. Generally speaking, these payments cover costs for healthcare, childcare, educational expenses, etc. Because parents have the obligation to support their children whether they are natural or adopted, Michigan law lays out specifics as to what parents are required to do in order to provide child support. Due to the challenges and financial obligations involved in child support, it is strongly recommended that individuals seek out an experienced family law attorney to ensure they have the best possible outcome.

Legal Framework

Two parents sitting on a couch with their daughter in the dad's lapChild support is governed by a formula which provides guidelines for the calculation of support payments. The state’s legal framework ensures that both parents contribute to their child’s upbringing, healthcare, education, and other necessities. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), through its Office of Child Support (OCS), oversees the administration and enforcement of child support orders.

The process begins with establishing paternity, which is crucial for orders involving children born to unmarried parents. Paternity can be acknowledged voluntarily by both parents or determined through legal proceedings. Once paternity is established, the court can issue a child support order as part of divorce or custody proceedings, or separately if the parents were never married.

Formula for Child Support

As mentioned above, the formula takes into account several factors in determining the appropriate level of child support. Officially known as the Michigan Child Support Formula (MCSF), this calculates the child support obligation of the parents. It considers several factors to ensure a fair and equitable distribution of financial responsibilities:

  • Income of Both Parents: The formula takes into account all sources of income, including wages, self-employment earnings, bonuses, and unemployment benefits.
  • Custodial Arrangements: The amount of time the child spends with each parent influences the calculation. Shared custody arrangements can lead to adjustments in the support amount.
  • Number of Children: The number of children requiring support is directly proportional to the payment amount.
  • Child Care and Health Insurance Costs: Expenses related to child care and health insurance premiums are factored into the support calculations.

The number of children involved as well as the overnights each parent has and individual income of each party are all factored into calculating the base support pursuant to MCSF. This number is then adjusted depending on the health insurance premiums paid for the child as well as any healthcare costs and childcare expenses. The end number is the total child support obligation that a parent has to pay, although it should be noted that the court has the final authority to determine the amount based on the child’s best interests and the specifics of the case.

Determining Income

The biggest question in child support cases is accurately determining the incomes of the parties involved. The MCSF formula utilizes a parents net income, which is different from gross income in that it eliminates all deductions and adjustments as permitted by the child support manual. By utilizing net income, it is possible to realistically estimate how much money is available for supporting the child. This income isn’t just limited to waes but also can include earnings from business endeavors, business partnerships, rental income, distributed profits from retirement accounts and any income due or owed to the parent by another individual.

One of the most commonly contested issues when determining income is the issue of potential income when the party in question is unemployed or underemployed, or has an unexercised ability to earn income. In these situations, it is possible that a court could impute or attribute income to a party based on their prior history of employment, as well as education level, ability to work and other factors such as evidence that the party can earn the imputed income. Oftentimes individuals will do their best to minimize their income in order to lower their obligation, however because of this in depth process of determining potential income, they can still be held accountable to pay their fair share of child support.

Enforcement of Child Support

Ensuring compliance with child support orders is a priority in Michigan. The state employs various enforcement mechanisms to collect overdue payments:

  • Income Withholding: This is the primary method for collecting child support, where payments are automatically deducted from the non-custodial parent’s paycheck.
  • Tax Refund Interception: The state can intercept state and federal tax refunds to cover unpaid child support.
  • License Suspensions: Non-compliant parents may face suspension of their driver’s, professional, or recreational licenses.
  • Property Liens: Liens can be placed on the non-custodial parent’s property to secure payment of overdue support.

These measures underscore the state’s commitment to ensuring children receive the support they deserve.

Modifying Child Support Orders

Life circumstances change, and Michigan’s child support laws accommodate modifications to support orders. Either parent can request a review of the child support order if there has been a significant change in circumstances, such as a job loss, income change, or modification in custody arrangements. The court will evaluate the request based on current guidelines and the child’s needs.

Legal Resources and Support

Navigating child support laws can be complex. Michigan offers several resources to help parents understand their obligations and rights. The MDHHS Office of Child Support provides guidance on establishing paternity, calculating support, and enforcing orders. Additionally, legal aid services and family law attorneys are available to assist with child support cases, offering representation and advice to ensure compliance with Michigan’s laws

Michigan’s child support laws are designed to provide a fair and efficient process for establishing, calculating, enforcing, and modifying child support orders. By prioritizing the best interests of the child and ensuring that both parents contribute to their upbringing, Michigan’s approach to child support aims to promote the well-being and development of children across the state.