Going through a divorce is strenuous enough on its own. Going through a divorce when children are involved can be a nightmare. Besides putting stress on the kids, reaching an agreeable resolution for both parents can be difficult. In regards to child support, the state of Michigan minimizes variability and keeps decisions as fair as possible by implementing the Michigan Child Support Formula.

What is the Michigan Child Support Formula?

Michigan’s Child Support Formula is used to determine which of the child’s parents will pay support and how much they will pay. The amount is based on a number of factors and calculated on a case-by-case-basis. The parent who is paying support is called the payer, while the other parent receiving the support is called the payee. In some cases where the payee or child are on public assistance, support payments might instead go to the state.

How is Child Support Calculated?

The Michigan Child Support Formula takes into account the following factors when calculating support payment amounts:

  • The incomes of both parents
  • How many nights per year a child spends with both parents (called overnights)
  • How many children will be supported
  • Cost of healthcare
  • Cost of childcare
  • Property agreements
  • Non-parent custodians
  • Various other factors

The court is required to follow this formula. The only time a deviation is allowed is if the end calculation would be inappropriate or unjust. This is also done on a case-by-case basis to pinpoint a support amount more suitable for the situation. Exceptions cannot be made simply because someone does not agree with formula policies.

Children have the legal right to financial support from both parents. This right is not nullified even if the payer has had their parental rights legally terminated. Support payments typically continue until the supported child turns 18. However, some situations may allow for payments to continue until the child is 19 1/2 if the child is still in high school with a reasonable expectation of graduation and is living full time with the payee.

After Support is Ordered

Once the support amount has been calculated, the court will issue a Uniform Child Support Order (USCO). This order requires the payer to send the agreed monthly support amount to the payee until the child is of age. Most of the time, this is done by the Michigan State Disbursement Unit withholding from the payer’s income and forwarding the support to the payee. Both parties will receive a copy of the order outlining the terms and conditions.

In the event that income withholding is not a viable method of paying child support – for example, the payer is self-employed – other options are available. Payments can be sent directly to the State Disbursement Unit, or another arrangement can be made if it better suits the situation.

Enforcing a Support Order

Regardless of the situation or terms, all child support orders are enforceable. Forms of enforcement may vary but can include:

  • Liens on the payer’s personal property
  • Contempt proceedings
  • Withholding income from the payer’s wages
  • Garnishing the payer’s tax refunds (federal, state, or both)
  • Suspension of the payer’s licenses (driver’s, sporting, recreational, occupational, etc.)

After the payer has accumulated a certain number of past-due payments, called arrearages, the payee or Friend of the Court have the option to file a Motion to Show Cause. Should the court determine the payer is able to pay the partial or full amount owed, the payer is likely to be held in contempt of court, which may lead to fines, jail time, or both.

Changing Circumstances

Over time, the payer’s income may improve or lessen, or even disappear completely if the parent loses their job. Medical and support costs may change, or living arrangements for the child may be altered. In any event that may affect the amount owed for child support payments, a Do-It-Yourself Motion to Change or Get Child Support may be filed and the court will reassess the circumstances.