Everything you need to know about Michigan child support laws, updated for 2020.
Michigan child support laws, in theory, are supposed to help families become or remain self-sufficient via state collaboration with parents.
However, if you are a parent in the state, you have questions like, how is child support determined? What can I do if a judge settles on an unfair amount? Can I go to prison for failing to pay child support in Michigan?
Or, what if my ex refuses to pay? What are my options?
Let’s find out in 6 minutes or less!
How is child support calculated in Michigan?
In Michigan, the law automatically recognizes the husband as the legal father, whereas, if the mother is unmarried, the state employs “official action” to establish paternity.
To calculate parental financial responsibility in the state, the judge follows state guidelines. Under said guidelines, the judge calculates child support as demonstrated below.
First, the state’s child support guidelines are based on the monthly net incomes of both parents. That means after establishing the combined net incomes of both parents. The judge reviews the factors listed below to establish an amount. Is the amount always fair?
No, but there are ways to lower your obligation, keep reading to find out.
Factors that determine child support in Michigan:
- The incomes of both parents.
- The number of overnights spent with each parent.
- Healthcare costs
- Childcare costs.
- And the number of children supported.
“Other factors” such as disability, mental or physical disability, and so on may also come into play.
How does Michigan’s child support formula work?
Michigan child support formula follows two main steps, that is:
- Income determination.
- Calculation of parental obligation.
‘Net Income’ in Michigan refers to all parental income excluding deductions and adjustments permitted as per Michigan child support guidelines.
Start a case here or call 1-866-540-0008.
Deviation from the formula
If the formula yields an unjust or inappropriate result, the court may exercise discretion and deviate from it. But remember, deviations cannot be based solely on disagreements with policies embodied in the formula. What do I mean?
“(1) If a court orders the payment of child support under this or another act of the state, this section applies to that order.
(2) Except as otherwise provided in this section, the court shall order child support in an amount determined by the application of the child support formula developed by the state friend of the court bureau as required in section 19 of the friend of the court act, MCL 552.519. The court may enter an order that deviates from the formula if the court determines from the facts of the case that application of the child support formula would be unjust or inappropriate and sets forth in writing or on the record all of the following.”
Consequently, deviation factors in Michigan include:
- Special needs child(ren).
- Extraordinary educational expenses.
- Minor parents.
- An incarcerated parent with minimal or no income assets.
- Or any other factor the court deems relevant to the best interests of a child.
How to modify child support in Michigan
If you experience a significant change in financial circumstances, state law allows you to file a motion to modify support. There are two ways to go about this.
That is, petition for modifications yourself, or retain an attorney to file the motion for you. If you go with the former option, make sure that you fully understand your county’s regulations.
What is important to remember is,
One, if you receive public assistance, the “friend of the court” automatically reviews your order every thirty-six months.
And two, parents can file a court motion to change child support orders less than thirty-six months after the last court order review.
To prove your case for modification, the evidence you will need is:
- A statement of wages and deductions from your employer or recent pay stubs.
- Copies of your state and federal income tax returns, including all schedules, 1099s, and W-2s.
- FOC39e (Child care verification form), if asking for reimbursement.
And any relevant additional information that may be useful to the friend of the court.
In Michigan, the work of the friend of the court is to:
- Assist parent location services.
- Provide alternative dispute resolution through mediation.
- Investigate, modify, or enforce court orders for parenting time and support.
Contact a friend of court via this number 1-877-543-2660.
Remember, the burden of proof is on the petitioner, meaning, not all petitions for modifications will go through. Therefore, we suggest you present your circumstances to a family court lawyer.
What happens if you do not pay child support in Michigan?
As mentioned, in Michigan, part of a friend of the court’s job is to enforce child support orders. Hence, if a parent refuses to pay support, the enforcer employs the following methods:
- “immediate” income withholding orders: IWN/Income Withholding Notice sent to employers, social security, unemployment compensation, or workers’ compensation. Require the delinquent parent’s source of income to tap child support at the source. Note that the law allows your employer to charge a fee for withholding.
- Tax refund intercepts: if the amount of back support surpasses $150, then you are eligible for tax refund garnishment.
- Consumer credit bureau reporting: this option will affect your mortgage, eligibility for loans, and credit score.
- Liens/ a claim against your private or real estate property if you are over two months behind in payments.
- Passport denial: the delinquent parent’s passport may be denied, revoked, or suspended if past-due child support is at least $2500.
Civil contempt of court charges
In Michigan, a “show of cause hearing” or contempt of court charges begin when the friend of the court or a party to the court files papers requiring the payer to appear in court.
At this stage, the delinquent parent can defend his/her situation. But what happens if your excuse for non-payment is not good?
First, remember that if you do not appear in court, the court orders a bench warrant, meaning an arrest can happen at any time.
Second, willful failure to pay can result in criminal charges and or incarceration.
How much back-child support is a felony in Michigan?
According to the Michigan penal code act 328 of 1931, quote,
” if the court orders an individual to pay support for the individual’s former or current spouse, or for a child of the individual, and the individual does not pay support in the amount or the time stated in the order, the individual is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 4 years or by a fine of not more than $2000, or both.”
That means willful failure to pay child support is a felony in Michigan.
Michigan arrearage forgiveness
Waiving arrearages in Michigan is impossible, however, the court allows parents who are in deep debt to request for a reasonable payment plan.
That applies even if there is a warrant for your arrest.
Contact a family court attorney for better insight on this.
Is there a statute of limitations on collecting back child support in Michigan?
Yes, the limit on child support is 10 years from the date that the last payment is due (18 years).
Does child support automatically end when the child turns 18?
If all factors remain constant, then child support should terminate on your son’s or daughter’s 18th birthday. However, payments may continue until the child is 19 ½, if he or she is in high school.
Additionally, payments may continue indefinitely if the child is mentally or physically incapacitated.
Voluntary termination of parental rights
To terminate your parental rights in Michigan, the parent must provide written consent to the court. But the process is not as straight forward as it sounds, and the judge prioritizes the best interests of a child.
Conversely, involuntary termination of parental rights happens when the child is, abandoned, the parents unfit to raise the child, or if the parent has engaged in egregious harm to the child.
Do not forget that terminating your parental rights liberates you from all matters concerning the child. Meaning, you will have no say in how the child is raised.
So, talk to a family court lawyer or consult widely before you make this decision.
Can you be emancipated at 14 in Michigan?
In Michigan, a minor that petitions the court for emancipation must prove that emancipation is in his/her best interests, to that end.
You must show the court that:
- He or she is 16 years of age and a resident of Michigan.
- You can manage your social affairs including, housing/shelter.
- Your source of income is legal, and you are financially independent.
Overall, child support is a legal obligation that cannot be waived in Michigan. So, we recommend that you try to make timely payments to avoid collection actions as per state guidelines.
More Michigan Laws