Children are legally entitled to support from their natural parents or adoptive parents. The amount that a parent pays or receives varies from state to state. Support is determined by income, number of children, and the amount of time each parent spends with the children. Many states, including Michigan, have developed formulas and guidelines to make the amount of support more predictable. The State of Michigan provides a manual to determine the amount of support to be paid. The formula became effective May 1, 1987 and is adjusted annually, most recently in 2008. The formula is based on the actual needs of the children and the financial resources of the parents. The formula includes child care and health care obligations. The formula is used by the Friend of the Court when determining support. To determine the amount of support that may be ordered, you need to look at the net income of both parties. The manual also explains other adjustments to be made to the support payer’s income, including other children in the home. When determining the amount of child support, all income of each party is taken into consideration. This includes all overtime, bonuses, and income from second jobs, commissions, etc.
The Friend of the Court has the authority to recommend modifying child support when a change of circumstances is shown by either party filing a motion, or after offering a review to the parties every 36 months. But generally there is no such thing as retroactive modification to a date any earlier than the date the motion is filed, or a review is conducted and a recommendation made. So if something happens; for example, if you were downsized or laid off, and you want the order modified, you need to do it immediately. Do not wait, or it may not be ordered and you will pile up arrears during that time which the court will not reduce.
Michigan circuit courts have the authority to order and enforce support orders. The Divorce Act (MCLA 552.1) allows for the court to enter a support order when a divorce is commenced, the parents are not together, or when a divorce judgment is entered. The Family Support Act creates a statutory duty for parents to support a child with whom they are not living. Sometimes with unmarried parents, problems arise regarding the paternity of the child. Once paternity is established, the parents are obligated to pay support under the same standard that applies to divorce and family support actions. The Friend of the Court plays a role in the process of support.
The Michigan Friend of the Court Act requires the Friend of the Court to investigate all relevant facts to make a written report and recommendation to the parties, their attorneys and to the court, when there are disputes in custody, parenting time, and/or support. The Court is not bound by the findings or recommendations of the Friend of the Court and may make its ruling independent of that recommendation, but the recommendation will become an order unless objections are filed by one of the parties. There are a few exceptions to payment of child support. First, when the child becomes emancipated, which is either when the child becomes married, reaches the age of 18 (or 19 ½, if finishing high school), is on active military duty, or when the court orders emancipation in the best interest of the child. Parents can no longer terminate their parental rights by written instruments.
Support is paid to the Friend of the Court who sends a check to the custodial parent. When a parent is delinquent in payment, the Friend of the Court takes action. Bench warrants are issued for the payers arrest, liens could be placed on real or personal property, loss of licenses (driver’s and/or occupational), income tax interceptions, imprisonment and fines are all actions that could be taken. In cases where the parties are resolving matters cooperatively and are confident that child support payments will be timely made, they may choose to opt out of the Friend of the Court. To do so, however, they must file a motion with the Court. For more information on child support issues you may have, call us for a free telephone consultation.