Child support is an ongoing, periodic payment made by a parent for the financial benefit of a minor child following the end of a marriage or other relationship. Child support is paid directly or indirectly by a non custodial parent for the care and support of children of a relationship that has been terminated. Some parents come to a mutual agreement without involving the Friend of the Court, but this is the best option to ensure timely payments and avoid missing payments.
Establishing a court order for child support
The prosecuting attorney’s office in each county is responsible for actions to establish support. If you do not already have an order for child support, you should hire an attorney, or contact a Department of Human Services (DHS) support specialist. You must submit an application to the DHS support specialist and the support specialist can assist if needed. If all appropriate information is included, the support specialist will make a referral to the appropriate prosecuting attorney.
The support specialist may call for additional information if it is needed before making a referral to the prosecuting attorney. The prosecuting attorney will petition the court for a support order and may contact you for additional information if it is needed prior to that time. You may also be contacted by the Friend of the Court, who is responsible for making recommendations on support. But this is an overwhelming process that is better handled by an attorney.
The court generally orders the non-custodial parent to provide support for a child living with the other parent. The court sets the amount of support a parent must provide. The support order may be a part of an interim, temporary, permanent, or modified court order in a divorce, paternity action, child custody action, or separate child support action. Note that paternity must be established, either voluntarily or through court action, before the court can establish an order to pay child support.
Determining the amount of support
In Michigan, the child support amount is determined using guidelines established under State law. These guidelines are based on monthly net income. The court reviews child support agreements to make sure the guidelines are applied correctly and the amount of child support is appropriate.
In some cases, the court may decide not to use the income guidelines to determine the amount of child support. When parents have joint physical custody, shared custody, or split custody of a child, the determination of child support may not fit the formula. For more information on child support guidelines, see the Child Support Formula manual.
Modifying a court order for support
Modification of a support order can be done in two ways:
1. Friend of the Court automatic review every 36 months.
Every 36 months the Friend of the Court does a review of child support orders. This review is automatic in public assistance cases, and upon written request in all other cases.
When reviewing support, the Friend of the Court office may request information from the parents’ employer, including address, social security number, date of birth, wages earned, and dependent health care coverage available as a benefit of employment.
When directed by the judge, the Friend of the Court office will also conduct a financial investigation and make a written report and recommendation to the parties involved (or their attorneys) and the judge regarding child support.
Customers can send an Objection to Child Support Review form to their Friend of the Court if he or she receives a notice of a child support review and he or she does not agree with the determination.
2. Requesting a support modification motion with the court.
You may choose to file a motion to change the support order more often than every three years if there is a substantial change in income for either party.
How to make support payments
All support in Michigan is collected and distributed by the Michigan State Disbursement Unit (MiSDU). The MiSDU receives support payments from employers through Income Withholding Orders (IWN) or directly from individual payers.
Individual payers can make payments:
- By check sent in the mail to:
Michigan State Disbursement Unit
P.O. Box 30351
Lansing, Michigan 48909-7851
- Through the Internet
- By credit card.
How support payments are received by the custodial party
The custodial party can receive payments:
- Through direct deposit into a personal checking/savings account.
- Through deposit to a child support debit card.
Michigan law requires that the Office of Child Support must send payments through electronic disbursement except in specific, limited circumstances. All support recipients who do not choose direct deposit into their checking or savings account will receive a debit card. Support will be automatically deposited into the debit card account.
The office of the Friend of the Court can provide forms and instructions to file this type of motion, but hiring an attorney would be the most helpful.
If both parents agree to change the support order to the amount shown by the child support formula, they may sign an agreement. Once that agreement is put in the form of an order, signed by the judge, and filed with the county clerk, it will become a court order.
For assistance in obtaining or modifying a support court order, contact our offices for a free consultation at 248-541-2600.
Enforcing a child support order
When a parent does not meet their child support obligation, the Friend of the Court office works to enforce the support order. Federal and State laws provide a variety of enforcement measures to encourage or force compliance with the support order. Parents who are in arrears on child support may be subject to the use of one or more of the following enforcement methods.
- Income Withholding of Arrears
- Consumer (Credit Bureau) reporting
- Driver license suspension
- Occupational license suspension
- Passport Denial
- Tax Refund Intercept
- Leins against real or personal property
- Contempt of court (show cause) hearing
- Felony Prosecution
- Periodic or lump sum payments from Unemployment Insurance, worker’s compensation, or lottery winnings
If you are behind on child support payments, contact Attorney Barton W. Morris to discuss possible options.