How is child support calculated in Michigan?


Michigan has Child Support Guidelines which consider both parent's incomes, the number of children involved, and various custodial arrangements, such as "primary custody" and "joint/shared custody."

Until October 2008, there were 3 tiers for custody.  Support was based upon "primary custody" if one parent had the children the majority of the time while the other parent enjoyed a given amount of parenting time. "Joint/shared custody" meant 50-50 if each parent had the children for 182.5 overnights. If time spent was not "50-50" then the next tier kicked in, which was called "shared economic responsibility" and was based on the assumption that one parent had 237 overnights and the other, 128 overnights per year.

Obviously, this was an artifical distinction and many parents paid too much because, even if they enjoyed 100 overnights with their children, it still fell below the 50-50 requirement and so dropped down to the "shared economic responsibility" level.  Since October 2008, the Michigan Child Support Formula began calculating support based upon the actual number of overnights.  Support can be reviewed at a parent's request every 36 months, or any time there is a change in circumstances (such as a change in the number of overnights).  

The Friend of the Court determines the appropriate amount of child support by looking at the parents' incomes, how many overnights each parent enjoys with the child, which parent pays for the child's health insurance and how much, and the cost of day care, if any.  Another factor that is sometimes brought into the equation is whether or not one or both of the parents have remarried and have a new family.  (They do not even have to be remarried.  The important question is whether or not they are supporting other children.)  And occasionally, the cost of special schooling (such as private school) may be taken into account.

Child support tends to be skewed in favor of the mother, because in the traditional nuclear family, the mother was the primary caregiver of the children.  This is changing greatly, but the court system has not yet caught up.  As a result, even though technically a "change of circumstances" is required to justify an increase in child support, this is very liberally construed.  The reality is that an increase of as little as 10% in the recommended amount of support is enough for most courts to justify modifying support, without any consideration of whether or not the needs of the child have changed.

Mindy L. Hitchcock