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.

Both Parents are Responsible for Child Support

Two parents sitting on a couch with their daughter in the dad's lap

In Michigan, both parents are considered to be responsible for the support of their children. How much each parent contributes is dependent on a formula that determines the needs of the child and the resources of the family involved. This formula assigns the child a share of that in order to ensure that they are adequately provided for. The court must order support in the specific amount determined in the formula unless it finds that the application of the formula is unjust or incorrect based on the facts of the specific situation.

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. This specifically consists of three main factors:

  • Base support amount adjusted for parenting time
  • Any medical support obligations as well as health care coverage and premium costs
  • Obligations for child care expenses

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.

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 wages, 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.