An Introduction to Child Support in Michigan
In Michigan, "child support" is determined by the "Michigan State Child Support Formula". Most attorneys have computer programs which plug in the variables and calculate child support consistent with this Formula. The variables are both parents' incomes, the amount of overnights spent with each parent, the amount of child care each parent pays and the amount of health insurance premiums paid by one or both parents on behalf of the children and the amount of out-of-pocket or uninsured medical expenses parents must spend on children.The legal policy provided for by the Formula is that children are entitled to the income produced by both parents. Although many payers of child support believe that they are paying additional funds to their "spouse." This is NOT the way the law views it. The law views that children have an entitlement to being supported by both parents and child support is, therefore, based on the financial situation of both parents. Usually the parent earning more income is responsible for making child support payments and the amount of time each parent has with the children is taken into consideration. This is because more time results in greater expense for children while in that parent's care.
How Does a Parent Pay Child Support?
In Michigan, child support is paid until the children reach 18 years old or graduates from high school, whichever is later. In does not extend past 19 years 6 months. A parent requesting child support for beyond 19½ years must show extraordinary need on the part of the child.
What Does Child Support Cover?
Michigan law does not require the recipient of child support to account for how the child support is spent. The Formula has built in average costs of housing, utilities, food, clothing, gasoline, entertainment, and other expenses based on U.S. consumer data. In most cases, the cost of raising a child is far greater than the amount of child support paid by either parent. In extremely high income families, the reasonable needs of the children can be taken into consideration but the law still recognizes that children are entitled to the lifestyle consistent with the income they would have if the parents had remained in an intact family.
Does Child Support Cover Extra-Curricular Activities?
Child support does not necessarily cover extra-curricular activities for the children, such as sports, dance, music, tutoring, boy/girl scouts, or any other activities that require fees, supplies, and/or equipment. Many parents agree to share these expenses above and beyond the payment of child support, realizing that these are necessary expenses that their children enjoy and need to succeed and are not covered by the child support Formula.
Can You Modify Child Support Agreements?
Prior to December 2008, in Michigan, child support was always modifiable based on a proper cause or change in circumstances, such as an increase or decrease in income for either parent, loss of employment for either parent, or some extraordinary need of children. Since December 2008, the Michigan Court of Appeals decided that parents could specifically contract to pay a non-modifiable amount of child support as long as the non-modifiable amount exceeds the amount they would pay as calculated by the Formula. Michigan Law, on the other hand, prohibits parents from contracting away their children's entitlement to support. In other words, parents cannot contract to pay a lesser amount of child support than would be paid as calculated by the Formula.
If You Need to Modify Child Support Payments, Act Quickly
In Michigan, the Friend of the Court is charged with reviewing the child support amount, once every three years. Parents, however, can seek review based on a change of circumstances as previously described. When making a request for review, depending on the county court, it can take anywhere from 2 to 6 months. By Michigan Law, a modification in the amount of child support is only retroactive to the date when the other parent was notified of the request to modify.
Therefore, when a parent is laid off or has a substantial change in income, it is imperative that a request is made to the court as soon as possible. The parent will be required to comply with the order for child support, as written until such time as it is modified. For example, if a payer loses employment in January, but does not bring that fact to the court's attention until April, any child support modification will only be made retroactive to the time in April when the other parent was given notice of the request for modification. In preparation for such a modification, a party should be prepared to provide all income information, including documentation of a lay-off, pay stubs, tax returns, as well as any income received from income producing assets. Any information a parent has about the other parent's income is also important.
Michigan Law also requires that neither parent deliberately reduce income to either avoid paying child support or in an attempt to obtain an increased amount of child support from the other parent. The court will look at the circumstances surrounding a loss of employment or any situation where a parent is deliberately under-employed. In these situations, the court can "impute" income to that parent, meaning the court will determine income at the higher amount previously earned or an amount that could be earned, but for the parent's under-employment. Courts will also impute income when a parent is unemployed by his or her own choice. Child support would then be determined based on that higher income than that which the parent is actually earning. In cases where a party is not employed by choice, the court can impute income to that parent using the minimum wage at the time.
Can You Withold Parenting Time When a Parent is Not Paying Child Support?
Michigan law prohibits withholding parenting time to a payer of child support who is not paying. Parenting time and child support are two completely separate issues in the eyes of the law. Michigan law provides for strict enforcement of child support and a parent not receiving child support can take the other parent to court. Your attorney or the friend of the court in your county can assist with this by bringing it to the attention of the court and enforcing payment. Interest on unpaid child support is also collected and added to the total amount due the recipient. Michigan Law requires 4% be added every January 1st and July 1st to unpaid amounts of child support. Penalties for substantial non-payment can range from garnishing wages, intercepting income tax refunds, garnishing bank accounts or other assets, placing liens on property or other assets, loss of driver's license or other licenses, up to incarceration.
West Bloomfield, MI child support attorney Danielle A. Smith provides representation to men and women throughout the Metro Detroit area in child support and other divorce related matters. Call 248-519-2323 to schedule a consultation.