Child support is a parent’s court ordered payment to the other parent to assist with the financial needs of the child. Children need emotional and financial support from both parents, even when the parents do not live together, and the child has a legal right to that financial support from both parents. Child support, once established, will generally continue until the child is an adult (18 years old), but may extend beyond the age of 18 in certain circumstances, but usually not past the age of 19 1/2 or when the child graduates from high school, whichever is sooner. Child support is usually a base amount for the child’s basic needs (food, shelter, clothing, etc.), and additional amounts for out of pocket healthcare costs, and child care (day care of after school care) costs.
Child support may be established in a number of ways, either through a divorce proceeding, a paternity proceeding if the parents were never married, or a child support (dependent support) case. A parent cannot avoid child support by agreeing to have his or her parental rights terminated, or by foregoing parenting time (visitation). Even in circumstances where the parents share joint child custody, or strictly equal time, one parent may still be obligated to pay child support to the other for the child’s financial needs if there is a disparity of income and other facts applicable to the Michigan Child Support Formula.
In all cases the amount of child support that the Michigan Child Support Formula calculates is presumed correct, but that presumption can be rebutted. The child support formula considers multiple factors, such as each parent’s income, child custody and parenting time arrangements, the number of children, medical costs, child care costs, and other factors that may be relevant to fully financially supporting the child’s needs. The child support formula seeks to balance the various factors such that the child is able to maintain a relatively normalized standard of living while at either parent’s home. There are many circumstances where a deviation is appropriate, either up or down, from the calculated amount. In addition, there can be a dispute over the correct numbers to enter into the formula in the first place, which occurs often when determining income for a self-employed parent. The parents may reach an agreement as to child support outside of court, however, a court is not bound to follow the parent’s agreement when issuing orders as to child support, especially if that agreement is not in conformance with the child support formula without a justified reason for the deviation.
Michigan has developed the Friend of the Court Bureau to oversee child support issues by establishing policies and guidelines, providing information to the public, and to develop the formulas used by the courts to determine the correct amount of child support. The Friend of the Court (FOC) works with the Michigan State Disbursement Unit (MiSDU) to collect and distribute child support payments. In most cases child support payments are withheld from the payor’s paycheck through an Income Withholding Order, but in other cases this may not be feasible if the payor is self employed or for other reasons. If the payor does not have his or her child support payments withheld automatically, they will be responsible for making payments directly to the MiSDU, or if the parties have some other agreement, the recipient (payee) must inform the FOC when they receive payments.
If the payor becomes delinquent in his or her child support payments, by either paying less than was ordered, or stopping payments, there are several methods to enforce the child support orders and collect arrearages (back due child support). A court may order additional funds be withheld from the payor’s wages until they are caught up, place a lien on real or personal property, garnish tax refunds, suspend driving or occupational licenses, or hold contempt proceedings. If you have child support questions or concerns, at Schmeltzer & Bostic, we can assist you in all areas of child support law, including establishing child support, enforcing a child support order, modifying a prior child support order, and establishing repayment plans if there are child support arrearages.