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Frequently Asked Questions About Child Support

Q:  What is child support and why is it awarded?

 A:  Child support is money paid by a non-custodial parent to the custodial parent for the support of a minor child. In determining the amount of child support, Michigan has adopted a Statewide Child Support Guideline. Under a new federal law, the Judge and the Friend of the Court must use the Guideline in setting support levels unless it would be grossly unfair to do so. 

Child support is based mainly on the child's needs (in conformity with the lifestyle of the parties), and the ability to pay. The Friend of the Court may calculate the amount (and may include a payment for a portion of daycare expenses). If you or your spouse is ordered to pay child support, an order of income withholding may issue compelling his or her employer to automatically deduct the amount from each paycheck. If a payor failed to pay court ordered support, he or she may be held in contempt of court. This may result in a jail term.

 

Q:  What factors are used to determine how much child support I will receive/pay?

 A:  Michigan courts consider a list of factors when determining the amount of child support to be awarded in a given case.  Support is generally paid until the child turns 18, but there are cases in which a child’s education is factored into the support amount or the final support settlement negotiated between the parents.  In exceptional circumstances (such as the child's severe physical or mental disability), support may be continued beyond the age of 18.

There is no way to guarantee a determinate amount of child support in a given case because each child support award is determined on a case by case basis after a judge considers the following questions:  1.  Which party has physical custody of the children?  2.  The number of minor children?  3.  Income for Plaintiff?  4.  Income for Defendant?  5.  Who pays the health care for the children? 6.  Amount of day care expense?  7.  Number of overnights for the non-custodial parent, if more than 78?  8.  Number of overnights for each child?  9.  Whether Plaintiff or Defendant has a second family?  10.  Other support orders that payor is required to pay? 11.  If there day care then amount and who pays it?

 

Q:  May the child’s other parent and I work out our own child support payment?

 A:  Yes.  Courts often require approval of these agreements, especially if one party is represented by an attorney and the other is not.  Court’s can and will approve of these agreements as long as, in the opinion of the court, it is a ‘fair’ agreement between you and the other parent.

 

Q:  What are some of the reasons for the modification of a child support order?

 A:  Although there are various reasons for modifications of child support orders, there is never a guarantee that the modification request will be granted.  There must be what a court considers a “change in circumstances.”  The specific factors that a court considers are the same as when determining whether alimony will be awarded or not (see above).

 

Q:  What if I am no longer receiving child support payments?

 A:  Enforcement of payments is instituted by an Order to Show Cause.  Other enforcement methods include interception of tax refunds, placing liens on the non-custodial parent's property, notification to credit bureaus of past-due support, and holding the non-custodial parent in contempt of court, which could result in a fine, jail, or both.

 

Q:  What if I can no longer afford to pay child support?

 A:  Child support is modifiable upon a showing of "changed circumstances." Support is usually ordered until the minor child reaches the age of eighteen or graduates from high school, whichever occurs last.  It is a crime in the State of Michigan to not pay your child support.  There are many laws in Michigan that govern the determination of child support, enforcement, and procedure.  If you can no longer afford your child support payments, contact me immediately so that I can help you avoid any potential consequences due to your inability to pay in conjunction with a court order.