Courts generally require child support be paid to the parent who has residential custody of the child. Non-custodial parents must pay this support regardless of whether or not they have visitation rights. But there are a number of other considerations that factor into the equation. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of those considerations and discuss how child support works in Michigan.
Tax Deductions and Child Tax Credit in the State of Michigan
The custodial parent is entitled to claim the minor children as dependents for all tax purposes. The parties may agree that the non-custodial parent shall have this allowance and enter this agreement into the judgment. If the non-custodial parent is entitled to the allowance by the judgment, that parent must obtain each year, from the custodial parent, a signed Form 8332, which must be filed with the non-custodial parent’s other federal income tax forms. Only the parent taking the dependency exemption is entitled to claim the child tax credit and the interest deduction and tax credits for post-secondary education.
If you are facing child support issues, it’s critical that you contact an experienced Oakland County child support lawyer as soon as possible.
How Long Does Child Support Last in the State of Michigan?
Child support is modifiable on the same basis as spousal support. The court usually orders this support until the child attains the age of 18 years, or graduates from high school, so long as the child has not yet reached 19 years and 6 months and regularly attends high school on a full-time basis with a reasonable expectation of completing sufficient credits to graduate from high school while residing on a full-time basis with the payee of support or at an institution. Enforcement of payments is the same as for spousal support.
How Does the Court Calculate Child Support?
Child support is based on a strict formula which considers the income of both the custodial and non-custodial parent.
This formula is developed by Michigan’s Friend of the Court Bureau. The formula is based on the relative income of both parents as it relates to each parent’s parenting time. While Michigan requires that both parents support their children, the court also recognizes that children receive support during the time that they spend with a parent. This parent is responsible for feeding them and so on.
However, if one parent has residential custody of the child, meaning that the child lives primarily with one parent, this parent will be eligible to receive support from the parent who does not have residential custody of the child.
In terms of income, the court considers your gross income. This includes wages, commissions, overtime, and any bonuses that you receive. The court can consider all income, given that the party receives it on a regular basis. There are few exclusions. They include inheritance and a handful of others. Even disability, unemployment benefits, and workers’ compensation are included as available income.
Michigan provides parents with a manual for determining your income relative to child support.
Each Parent’s Obligation
Once the income of each parent has been established, will consider income relative to the amount of time each parent spends with the child. In joint custody situations, it may still not be 50-50. This is because the child usually spends the majority of their time with one parent during the school week by necessity. If both parents live relatively close by, the child might split time with the parents. Even if this is the case, if one parent’s income is substantially lower than the other, then the parent with the higher income will need to pay some support to the parent with the lower income.
Uniform Child Support Order
Once one parent has been ordered to pay child support to the other parent, the court will issue what is known as a Uniform Child Support Order (UCSO). The paying parent will be required to pay a base amount plus or minus funds allocated to health insurance. In other words, if one parent pays for health insurance for their child, the amount they pay will be subtracted from their base child support payment. Conversely, if the parent who has residential custody of the children pays for their health insurance, then that amount would be added to the base payment that the other parent makes.
Included in the base payment for child support is roughly $400 per year used for ordinary, out-of-pocket medical expenses such as copays and deductibles. If ordinary medical expenses are greater than the allocated $400, then each parent would be ordered to pay a percentage of the difference. In that case, the payee (the parent receiving the support) would be required to show proof that ordinary medical costs are greater than the $400 allotment.
In other words, if there is something that insurance won’t cover, the payee should keep a receipt of the denial letter and request relief for the amount from the payer within 28 days of the notice. The payer would have another 28 days to make payment for the percentage of their share of the medical costs. If the payer does not resolve the payment within 28 days, the payee may ask the court to enforce the order.
Challenging a Child Support Order in Michigan
While the formula sets a baseline for how much child support should be for each parent, the result can sometimes be unfair. In this case, a parent can petition the judge to rethink the child support order. You can also modify child support orders based on changing circumstances. The question then becomes: What factors will the judge consider when dissenting from the formula?
Well, the first step is to petition the judge. The judge will then consider all the factors involved in determining the cost to each parent. This includes elements like:
- Each parent’s age,
- If there is a large amount of joint debt,
- The child’s needs,
- one parent is incarcerated,
- there are extraordinary educational or medical expenses,
- someone other than the child’s parents can be provided health care,
- one parent is in bankruptcy,
- the parents do not have custody of the child.
Modifying a Child Support Order in Michigan
Child support payments can be modified at any time. The general rule of thumb is: Has one parent’s situation changed? For instance, if a parent with residential custody of a child loses their job then the other parent may see their child support burden increase. If the parent without residential custody loses their job, then they may see their child support burden decrease. Parents may become sick or injured. In addition, the child’s needs can evolve over time. If the child support arrangement was established less than 36 months prior, the judge will require that there be some significant change to the parent’s circumstances.
In most cases, however, the Friend of the Court will review the child support arrangement every 36 months. A review may be ordered sooner if custody has changed hands. This is to ensure that the child is receiving the amount of support that they need. The review does not typically consider the incomes or changing circumstances of the parents. The Friend of the Court agency does not have the power to alter an existing child support arrangement. Only the court can sign off on modifications. The court requires that a parent petition the court to modify the arrangement.
Paying Child Support
The Michigan State Disbursement Unit (MiSDU) and the Friend of the Court coordinate the recovery and disbursement of child support payments. In the majority of cases, the funds will be withheld directly from the payee’s wages and this amount will be forwarded to the payee.
Nonpayment of court-ordered support may lead to a contempt of court citation, resulting in a jail term or a suspension of the delinquent parent’s occupational or driver’s license.
Every child support order paid through the Friend of the Court now provides for the immediate and automatic withholding of child support payments from any source of the payer’s income, unless the court orders otherwise or approves an agreement by the parties.
Self-Employment and Other Concerns
If a payee is self-employed or otherwise doesn’t receive a scheduled wage amount, the payer will be required to make monthly payments directly to MiSDU. In other cases, an alternative arrangement can be negotiated. When this is the case, the payee will need to let the Friend of the Court know that they have received their payment so that the payer is credited with having made it.
Enforcing a Child Support Order
Child support payments get special status under the law. Not only are they not taxable, but they cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. If collections go past due, the court can arrange several aggressive penalties against the non-paying parent’s finances. These include:
- Garnishing the parent’s wages
- Placing a lien on their real estate or homestead property
- Garnishing tax refunds
- Declaring the parent in contempt of court
If the parent is declared in contempt of court, the court can order the suspension of their driver’s license or a professional license. Alternatively, the court can jail the non-paying parent. For obvious reasons, this is only used as a last resort to apply pressure to the non-paying parent.
When child support payments accrue arrearages, the Friend of the Court will issue a motion to show cause. The payer has the opportunity to explain why they haven’t made their payments, but if the court decides that they have the ability to pay some or all of the child support arrearages, they will be required to do so under penalty of being held in contempt.
In some cases, parents who simply don’t want to make payments to their former spouses will reduce the amount of work they do to lower or eliminate their payments. If the court decides that the parent is able to work, but unwilling, they can impute income. That means, they will operate under the assumption that the parent could earn enough money to make the agreed-upon payments and, because of that, the parent will end up paying (or owing) the original agreed-upon amount regardless of whether or not they make enough money.
Oakland County Child Support Attorneys Can Help
The divorce attorneys at Sumner & Associates, P.C. can help you modify an existing order or enforce an order if the other parent is delinquent in payment. We can also ensure that the support order is fair and considers all the needs of the child.
If a source of income has dried up or there is a substantial change to your circumstances, it is essential that you petition the court for a change in child support. Failure to pay is not an option. The court will hold you in contempt and may require that you pay fines, face jail time, or be subjected to other administrative penalties. Before that happens, get a lawyer involved who can argue your case and ensure that the court understands the position you are in.
If you’re in a child support dispute, Sumner & Associates, P.C. can help. Contact us today.