Parents have an obligation to provide for their minor children. When parents live in the same household, that support usually happens more or less automatically. When parents live in different households, such as when they separate, divorce, or were never married, supporting the child can become more challenging. In these cases it may help parents to have a court order that details how much child support should be paid, and to which parent.
Unlike many of the other issues in a divorce case where the court wants the parties to come to their own agreement, parents cannot decide for themselves what they want child support payments to be, and they cannot bargain away or waive child support. That’s because child support is an obligation owed to the child, not to the other spouse or partner.
Blume Law Group represents Michigan parents in initial child support determinations, child support enforcement, and motions to modify child support.
In Michigan, child support is determined by the Michigan Child Support Formula. This formula takes into account several factors to determine each parent’s support obligation:
Typically, one parent will have a higher support obligation under the formula than the other. The two different amounts will offset each other, and the parent with the higher support obligation (the “payer”) will pay the difference to the other parent (the “payee.”)
Michigan uses a form called the Uniform Child Support Order (UCSO), so that all child support orders in the state will contain the same required information. Child support consists of base support, which may be adjusted up or down depending on which parent pays health insurance premiums for the child. The monthly child support payment will also include reimbursement for actual child care expenses.
Of course, children often have medical expenses that are not fully covered by health insurance. The UCSO also provides for how parents will divide these uninsured medical expenses, which includes costs such as co-pays and deductibles. It is the payee’s responsibility to promptly make the payer aware of any uninsured medical expenses, which the payer is obligated to promptly pay.
Most child support payments in Michigan are made through the Michigan State Disbursement Unit, or MiSDU. The easiest way for this to happen is for child support payments to be deducted from the payer’s paycheck using an income withholding order, which transfers the money to MiSDU who then forwards it on to the payee. That allows both parties to be assured that payments are made, received, and recorded. Sometimes that isn’t possible, because a payer is self-employed or has irregular income. In those circumstances, alternative payment arrangements must be made.
It would be wonderful if all parents with child support obligations made every payment on time, but of course, that doesn’t happen. Past-due payments are called “arrearages.” If arrearages begin to mount up, a payee can ask the court to enforce the child support order, or the Friend of the Court, which assists in child support enforcement, may do so on its own. There will be a “show cause” hearing to determine if the payer is able to make full or partial payment for arrearages.
The court may decide to enforce the child support order through income withholding, garnishing tax refunds, or placing a lien on the payer’s property. Other enforcement options include suspending the payer’s driver’s license, occupational license, or recreational license. If the court finds that the payer had the ability to make child support payments and simply chose not to, he or she may be held in contempt of court and be subject to fines and/or jail time.
Parents may be subject to a child support order for many years. Parenting time arrangements and incomes often change during that time, causing one parent to ask that the child support order be modified. Either party can make a written request for the Friend of the Court to review a child support order. If the difference between the existing support payment and the new child support amount would be 10% or $50, whichever is greater, the FOC will recommend that the court modify the support order.
It is extremely important to note that in almost all cases there is no retroactive modification of support, meaning that the court will not go back and adjust the amount already owed. Therefore, a parent must immediately ask for a modification of support if there is some change in the circumstances related to the support, such as a layoff, a promotion, or someone wins the lottery. It sounds impossible but it has happened. Parents should also file a motion with the court for a modification of child support if they change their custody or their parenting time arrangements.
As a parent, you understand how important it is to provide for your child. At Blume Law Group, we are committed to helping you make sure that your child has the support they need from both parents. Attorney Sean Blume has spent his entire legal career advocating for the needs of Michigan children. Blume Law Group represents parents in Michigan child support matters in Macomb, Oakland, Wayne, and St. Clair counties. We invite you to contact our office to schedule a free consultation. We look forward to working with you.