Child Support Lawyer in Grand Rapids Michigan

Child support is one of the legal methods by which a child is provided for financially.

In Michigan both the mother and the father of a child are responsible for providing for the child's well being, particularly financial, regardless of their marital status. Child support is one of the legal methods by which a child is provided for financially. My job in representing a party in a child support matter as their attorney is to help that parent understand their responsibilities and to protect their interests in the calculation process and possible enforcement process.

By Michigan law, child support is in effect until the child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever is later. However, the court may order support for a child between the ages of 18 and 19½ under certain circumstances, referred to as Post Majority Child Support.

Child Support Calculation

All child support calculations in Michigan must begin with the application of the Michigan Child Support Formula. This Formula is mandatory in Michigan child support cases, and where support is properly calculated under the Formula, the Formula is presumed to be correct. The Formula considers a parent's support obligations consisting of base support adjusted for parenting time, medical support obligations that include ordinary and extraordinary medical expenses, health care coverage and the division of premiums, and child care obligations. The primary pertinent information entered into the Formula for the calculation are the parties' incomes, overnight parenting time for each party, child care expenses, and health care and insurance expenses.

As mentioned above, both parents are responsible for the support of their children. Therefore, the amount of child support paid by the payor of child support to the payee does not cover all of the expenses associated with supporting a child, making the recipient of child support also responsible for meeting the balance of the child's needs above the child support that recipient receives.

Calculating Gross Income

Calculating the gross income of each party is sometimes complicated. The Formula attempts to address the many complexities that may be involved in the calculation, such as capital gains, perks and in-kind income, tips and gratuities, gifts that replace income, imputed income, and other child support obligations. As a result of all of the above, it should be clear that the proper calculation of child support using the Michigan Child Support Formula can be anything but simple. The Friend of the Court (who is often called upon to calculate child support) and experienced divorce attorneys have been known to fail to properly calculate support using all aspects of the Michigan Child Support Formula. Only a well-qualified divorce specialist should be engaged to properly apply the Michigan Child Support Formula.

Special Circumstances

While the Formula amount is presumed to be correct, the court may still have a duty to award support different from the Formula based upon the child's needs and the parent's ability to pay. As a consequence, the court can "deviate" from the Formula when a request is made. If this situation applies to you, it is my job to present your case to the court clearly and logically, so that the court will consider your request to deviate. It is also my job to make sure that your income has been properly calculated, and that the proper information has been used in the Formula. We have written a blog that discusses deviations of child support to help you understand some of the situations in which the court allows a deviation.

Enforcement of Child Support

In Michigan, and most other states, it is mandatory that child support be paid by the payor through income withholding, not giving the payor any discretion about whether the child support should be paid, as the payor's employer will be mandated to withhold specified funds from the payor's income, and pay those funds through the Friend of the Court. Other enforcement mechanisms besides income withholding include liens on property, restrictions on the use of licenses, both driving and business, levies on bank accounts, tax refund interception, and orders to show cause for contempt. A finding of contempt by the court for failure to pay child support can subject the payor to jail time.

Frequently Asked Questions

The questions and answers below are intended to provide general information with regard to common questions on child support based on laws in the State of Michigan. They are not intended to constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon in lieu of consultation with a divorce specialist or attorney.

Similarly, since every case is different we recommend consulting with a divorce specialist or attorney for advice related to your specific set of circumstances.

When income varies, often with a self-employed person or seasonal work, averages are most often used, potentially for a period of up to three years. However, if a pattern over several years is emerging (either increasing or decreasing), emphasis will most likely be placed on the more recent developments in the pattern.

If the payor of support receives a raise, that fact should be made known to the Friend ofthe Court. However, child support is not automatically affected, requiring the payee of child support to take some action to the have the child support reviewed either by petitioning the Friend of the Court for a review based upon the raise, or requesting that the court consider the issue through counsel.

Hidden income is one of the most difficult issues in the calculation of child support. Cheating may occur in situations such as a payor being involved in a cash-only business. However, evidence may be found to prove that the income reported on tax returns is inaccurate or fraudulent.

Among the ways to produce evidence of under-reporting or fraudulent reporting of income are the following:

  • Financial statements. A party applying for a loan or credit card will have to disclose their income, and that person is often motivated to report all of their income to obtain the credit desired. Such disclosures are usually under oath.
  • Bank deposits. Monthly bank statements should be obtained to prove any deposits of unreported income.
  • Expenditures by the payor. Information should be obtained to prove inconsistencies between expenditures and reported income. These expenditures could come through bank statements, credit card statements, etc. In addition to personal expenditures, a self-employed person could be required to present proof regarding expenditures in the business. For example, a restaurant business dealing in a lot of cash will still have records available regarding supplies and product used either through the restaurant owner's records, or supplier's records.

See the section above titled "Child Support Enforcement".

The Friend of the Court will automatically review child support every three years, although child support can be reviewed at any time when there has been a change in the circumstances sufficient to justify a review. For example, very modest increases or decreased in income usually do not justify a recalculation of support. In addition, child support and the related issue of medical insurance and expenses can be reviewed where there is an increase or decrease in expenses regarding the minor child, such as child care and medical.

In Michigan, neither the Friend of the Court nor the courts require the payee receiving support to produce an accounting of the expenditure of child support for the children. Such an accounting would often be very complicated, time consuming, and potentially burdensome on the payee, and the Friend of the Court, and courts simply do not have the resources to monitor every child support usage. Unfortunately, a payor's only resource is to have evidence that the custodial parent is not properly providing for the children's nutritional, clothing, educational and medical needs. Such evidence could be extremely difficult to obtain, unless the custodial parent has been investigated by Child Protective Services for neglect of the children.

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