Labre Law Office | Family Law & Criminal Defense Lawyer | Edwardsburg, MI

How Does Child Support Work in Michigan?

March 1, 2024 – Rob LaBre

Across the United States, parents have a legal obligation to financially support their minor children. Regardless of a parents’ relationship status—whether married, unmarried but living together, separated, or divorced—they are still responsible for their children. However, the specific definitions and processes regarding child support cases can vary between states. So, how does child support work in Michigan?

First, the law distinguishes between two types of parents in a child support case. The custodial parent has the children in their primary care for most of the time, as defined by the court, and makes daily decisions about raising and caring for the children. If a parent is absent, a legal guardian such as a grandparent or court-appointed caretaker can take on the custodial role.

The noncustodial parent does not have the children in their primary physical custody. However, the noncustodial parent may have periods of physical custody on alternate schedules, such as weekends. Typically the noncustodial parent shares legal custody with the custodial parent when important choices about the children need to be made. Child support payments provided to the custodial parent or legal guardian help financially support the children. Child support attorneys can make a world of difference when it comes to navigating the legal system, regardless of whether you’re the custodial or noncustodial parent.

How Is Child Support Calculated?

Michigan uses statewide child support guidelines to determine payment amounts in a consistent manner. The court will look at both parents’ income levels and custodial arrangements to calculate the appropriate dollar amount. Specifically, they will consider factors like:

  • Each parent’s gross monthly income from all sources such as salaries, commissions, interest or benefits. A lawyer for child support can help obtain accurate financial information.
  • The number of overnights the child/children spend with each parent annually. More overnights with one parent affects the payment amount.
  • Any extraordinary health care or childcare costs beyond basic necessities. For example, private school tuition or special needs treatments.
  • The ages of the children, as support typically decreases as they become adults.

Using a formula based on these inputs, the court issues an order outlining the noncustodial parent’s monthly support obligation. Payments are intended to provide for a child’s basic needs proportionate to each parent’s ability to contribute financially.

What Does the Court Define as Income?

When calculating child support, the family courts in Michigan take a broad view of what constitutes income. Essentially, any monetary benefits or earnings that make their way to a parent are considered income that can be used to determine child support obligations.

Specifically, the courts define income as a parent’s total receipts from any source, with very few exclusions outlined in the state guidelines. This includes standard types of income like wages, salaries, commissions, bonuses, tips, and self-employment earnings. It also captures income from many non-employment sources, such as investment gains, lottery winnings, gifts or prizes of cash value, spousal support, and income from trusts or inheritance. Even non-cash benefits provided by an employer like housing allowances are counted.

When Do Child Support Obligations End?

In most cases, a parent’s obligation to pay child support will last until their child reaches the age of eighteen. However, there are some situations where a child support order may continue beyond a child’s 18th birthday. For example, if the child is still in high school, support is often extended until they graduate or turn 19, whichever comes first.

Additionally, if a child has a physical, mental, or emotional disability, the payor parent’s obligation could continue indefinitely as long as the child still requires financial assistance. Child support attorneys can provide guidance on unique cases where responsibility extends past 18.

On the other hand, child support orders are occasionally terminated early if the receiving parent passes away or if the child enters the care of another guardian like an adoptive parent. Emancipation documents may also end an order when a minor child demonstrates financial independence before adulthood. Overall, parents cannot unilaterally stop payments once a support order is issued by the court. Any changes or termination of obligations must go through a legal process of filing for modification.

What Happens if My Ex Stops Paying?

If the non-custodial parent falls behind or completely stops making their court-ordered child support payments, legal actions can be taken to remedy the situation. First, the custodial parent should keep detailed records of any missed or partial payments. A lawyer for child support can then help initiate enforcement proceedings against the non-custodial parent.

Some common remedies and consequences for nonpayment include:

  • Wage garnishment: The court can garnish up to 65% of the payor’s earnings to cover current and back support.
  • Tax refund interception: The government may intercept state and federal tax refunds to pay down arrears.
  • Suspension of driver’s licenses, recreational/professional licenses: These can be suspended if support is unpaid for longer periods.
  • Contempt of court: Nonpayment can result in fines or even jail time if deemed willful defiance of the order.
  • Increased interest owed: Accrued interest is added to arrears at a statutory rate.

The goal of enforcement is coercing payment and making up the shortfall for dependent children. If you are a custodial parent and your ex has fallen behind on payments, seek help from experienced child support attorneys as soon as possible.

How Long Does It Take to Set Up a Child Support Order?

The process of establishing an initial child support order varies depending on individual circumstances and whether parents agree on support terms. Generally, setting up an order through Michigan’s office of child support or the court system takes three to six months from start to finish.

LaBre Law Office’s Child Support Attorneys in Michigan Can Help

Navigating the child support system can be a complex process that requires understanding different state laws and procedures. By obtaining accurate financial information, understanding how support amounts are calculated, knowing enforcement options when payments lapse, and consulting with an experienced child support lawyer when necessary, parents can work to ensure their children’s needs are met. While establishing and modifying support orders may take some time and involve difficult discussions, prioritizing cooperation and the best interests of the children will lead to the most positive outcomes.

Have you been searching online for “child support lawyers near me?”  With 43 years of combined experience and litigation experience, LaBre Law Office’s child support attorneys in Michigan are ready to guide you through every step of the process. Contact us at (269) 431-2058 or complete our online form to schedule a consultation. We’ll provide personalized guidance tailored to your specific circumstances and the laws of Michigan. Excellence is our standard.

Copyright © 2024. LaBre Law Office. All rights reserved.

The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country, or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.

LaBre Law Office
68897 Cass St,
Edwardsburg, MI 49112
(269) 431-2058 

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