Child Support Lawyer
In Michigan, both parents are responsible for financially supporting their children. But which parent has to pay support to the other depends on the circumstances. A father isn’t always obligated to pay the mother. Instead, the parent who has less time with the child usually pays the parent who has primary custody. If you share 50/50 joint custody, then the calculation is more complicated. It might come down to which parent earns more.
When it’s time to figure out child support payments in your family, talk with Lansing child support lawyer Tiffany DeBruin. She’ll explain the law and help you navigate the child support system in and out of court. You can reach DeBruin Law PLLC through our online form or call (517) 324-4303 to set up your free consultation.
Michigan Child Support Law
You can find Michigan’s Status of Minors and Child Support Act in the Michigan Compiled Statutes Sections 722.1-6.
You Can Decide Child Support Together
You and your child’s other parent have the right to negotiate an amount of child support you feel is fair. This is often one of the many topics you’ll discuss during divorce mediation. But the amount you and your child’s other parent reach has to be approved by the court. If a judge believes the amount is unfair, inappropriate, or not in the child’s best interests, they can refuse to approve it.
How Michigan Calculates Child Support
To calculate child support in Michigan, you first calculate each parent’s net income. This is your income minus any deductions the Michigan Child Support Formula Manual allows. It’s not your take-home pay. You have to follow the manual to figure out what counts as income and what you can deduct for this particular purpose.
Once each parent’s net income is calculated, the next step is figuring out each parent’s child support obligation. You each have a base support obligation that’s adjusted based on how much parenting time you have. Parenting time is determined by the number of nights you have your child each year. Then, there are additional support obligations for health insurance coverage, medical expenses, and childcare.
Finally, the support obligation is apportioned between the parents based on each of your percentage of the combined net income. For example, if you earn 65% of your combined net incomes, then you’re responsible for 65% of necessary child support.
To estimate child support payments, you can use the MiChildSupport Calculator from the Department of Health and Human Services. But it’s better to talk with an experienced child support lawyer in Lansing about you and the other parent’s income, child custody, and the potential child support payments.
Also, it’s important to know that the state updates child support guidelines every few years. The current guidelines are from 2017. There might be changes in the coming years.
Who Pays for Health Insurance?
Health insurance is a contentious topic in the U.S. It might be that one or both of you have good medical insurance through an employer. Because of this, you might easily agree on who pays for your child’s insurance. But if neither of you has employer-sponsored health care, then you’ll have to purchase insurance through the marketplace or privately. This can be much more expensive. Talk with your lawyer about how to negotiate which parent is responsible for making sure your child has health insurance, even if it’s through a public assistance program like Medicaid.
How Can I Use Child Support?
Child support is meant to be used by the recipient parent to keep their child housed, clothed, fed, educated, and in all ways cared for. You don’t have to use child support only for expenses directly related to your children, like new shoes or school supplies. You don’t have to keep receipts on how you use child support. You can use the support to pay your rent or mortgage, utilities, phone bills, medical expenses, groceries, and any other expenses necessary to maintain your household.
When Child Support Ends in Michigan
Your obligation to pay child support, or your right to receive it, usually ends when your child turns 18 years old. But, if your child is still in high school full time and lives at home, you can ask the court to extend support through their graduation date, as long as they’re set to finish before they’re 19 and half years old. Child support obligations also end if your child becomes legally emancipated before their 18th birthday.
Who Pays for College Expenses
Michigan law doesn’t require parents to pay for college or any of the child’s other expenses once they’ve turned 18 and graduated from high school. If your child’s other parent doesn’t want to contribute to college expenses or formally agree to help in a divorce settlement or other contract, then a court won’t make them. However, if they do formally agree to help with college expenses in a divorce settlement, the court will require them to help.
But it’s common for parents to want to help their children get through some post-secondary education program. You and your child’s other parent can agree to help your child through college—either formally or informally. You might already have funds set aside, and you can each agree to maintain some savings for your child’s future.
If you and your child’s other parent want to help with your child’s college expenses, talk with a Lansing child support lawyer. These agreements are more complicated than you’d think. The costs between going to a nearby state college versus an out-of-state private university differ dramatically. You need to talk about a cap on how much each parent is willing to pay. Also, which expenses is each parent willing to pay for? You might agree to pay for room and board, but what about helping your child with an off-campus apartment and groceries? If you and the other parent have a college savings fund, who decides when and how it’s spent? There’s a lot to consider before sending your child off for their freshman year.
What if My Child is Disabled and Can’t Care for Themselves as an Adult?
If your child is severely disabled, and you expect to care for them into their adulthood, talk with a child support lawyer before your child turns 18 years old. Michigan law doesn’t require a parent to pay support after your child is 19 years and 6 months old, even if your child isn’t able to earn an income or live independently. But you and their other parent can agree to child support payments for longer. We’ll help you draft a formal agreement with your child’s other parent regarding supporting your adult disabled child.
Modifying Child Support
You or your child’s other parent can ask to change a child support order over the years. Both parents have the right to ask for a review of the child support order every 36 months. You can do this through the Friend of the Court Office.
You can ask the court to review the order earlier if there’s been a substantial change, such as:
- Your child has special needs
- Your child has significant educational expenses
- Your child earns a significant income
- Your income has significantly decreased
- The income of the parent who pays support has significant increased
For the court to change your child support order, you have to prove there’s been a significant change. Maybe you’ve lost your job, and your current support obligation is a burden, or the support you receive isn’t enough. Maybe your child’s health has changed, and they need a significant amount of costly medical care. The judge will review your current circumstances, determine if it’s a material enough change, and, if so, recalculate the child support obligation.
It’s usually a good idea to talk with a child support lawyer before asking a court to modify the order. A lawyer can help you figure out whether the current change in circumstances is enough to warrant a modification. If your attorney believes you have a good reason to ask for the child support amount to increase or decrease, they’ll help you gather evidence to present to the judge, such as evidence of your income or your child’s higher expenses.
Your Options if the Other Parent Refuses to Pay Child Support
If your child’s other parent is obligated to pay child support, but they aren’t, talk with a child support attorney right away. You have enforcement options. Through Michigan’s Friend of the Court, you can ask for income withholding for current and past-due child support. If your child’s other parent has a W2 job, then their support obligation can be taken out of their paycheck. It’s also possible to garnish the other parent’s unemployment benefits, Social Security benefits, independent contracting wages, workers’ compensation benefits, insurance payouts, and tax refunds.
Another option is for the court to place a lien on the other parent’s property, such as their home, personal property like a vehicle, financial assets, or insurance claims. If the other parent tried to sell one of these assets or receive proceeds from an insurance claim, you’d have a right to be paid child support first.
If the other parent still hasn’t paid, and they’re more than two months behind, then you can ask for their driver’s license, professional license, or sport or recreational licenses to be suspended or revoked. If they owe more than $2,500, you can ask for their passport to be denied or revoked.
Friend of Court can require a non-paying parent to appear in court. This is a show cause hearing. The parent is expected to show up in court and explain why they can’t pay and why they shouldn’t be held in contempt. If they don’t go to court when they’re ordered to, the court has the option of issuing a warrant for their arrest. Significantly delinquent child support obligations can lead to felony criminal charges.
Do You Have Questions About Child Support in Michigan?
If you’re getting a divorce or welcoming a child with someone other than a spouse, it’s important to set up child support right away. Tiffany DeBruin, a Lansing child support attorney, can help you two reach a child support settlement together, or guide you through the process of asking the court to set a child support amount. DeBruin Law PLLC always pursues the best possible outcome for you and your child. Call us today at (517) 324-4303 or send us your information through our online form. We offer free consultations.