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Mussin & Scanland, PLLC
13351 Reeck Court, Suite 5
Southgate, Michigan 48195
CHILD SUPPORT LAWYER
Child Support is a difficult and often confusing area of family law. Support can be financially taxing, and it is important to know your rights and that the support payment is set at a fair and equitable amount.
At Mussin & Scanland, our Custody lawyers' vast experience will assist you though the entire process and help you to understand your rights, what to expect, what each part of the process means, and the likely outcome of decisions affecting your custody. We are conveniently located downriver in Southgate and service Wayne, Oakland, Monroe and Washtenaw Counties.
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Not paying child support, paying late, or hiding assets to avoid child support can result in your child short of necessities and potentially living a lessor life. Don’t be that parent.
When a family goes through a divorce or a relationship ends, the needs of the children are the most important consideration. Children have the right to financial support from both parents. By helping obtain an appropriate support agreement that is child-focused and equitable, our skilled Michigan child support lawyers support your family during this time.
Confusion and misunderstanding often present in child support cases with the often heard belief that Child Support is paid to the other parent, and is simply additional income to that parent; It is not. Child support is a court-ordered payment to help cover the costs of raising a child in Michigan. That means, despite the fact the support is paid to the other parent, it is for the benefit of the child, as support seeks to balance the incomes and pay a portion of the expenses each parent must pay to raise the child. These expenses include such things as food, shelter, clothing, school supplies, childcare, and personal care items.
The total monthly child support calculation usually includes base support, healthcare, and childcare costs. Child support can be ordered during your divorce case, paternity/custody case (for non-married parents), or support case.
How Michigan Child Support Calculated
In determining the amount of child support, Michigan has adopted Child Support Guidelines, which the Judge and the Friend of the Court (FOC) must use in setting support levels unless, it would be grossly unfair to do so. The Guidelines consider the incomes of both parents and the needs of the child based on national statistics showing what it costs to raise a child in a typical family of a similar income level. The factors the Court considers in determining support include some of the following:
1. Which party has physical custody of the children?
2. The number of minor children?
3. Income for Plaintiff?
4. Income for Defendant?
5. Who pays the health care for the children?
6. Amount of day care expense?
7. Number of overnights for the non-custodial parent, if more than 78?
8. Number of overnights for each child?
9. Whether Plaintiff or Defendant has a second family?
10. Other support orders that payor is required to pay?
11. If there is a daycare amount and who pays it?
As your Child Support Attorneys, we will use the Guidelines to calculate the amount of child support once a full disclosure of both parent’s finances has been made. Child support is not tax deductible to the parent who is paying it and it is not taxable to the parent who receives it. Child support is based mainly on the child’s needs (in conformity with the lifestyle of the parties), and the ability to pay.
Michigan child support guidelines offer an outline the court will use to establish child support. This does not mean parents cannot reach an agreement on the amount of child support outside of court, parents can agree on an amount to be paid however, the amount agreed upon must be certified in the best interests of the minor child, fair and equitable based on the circumstances, and such requirements must be made before a judge who may or may not find it unfair or inappropriate and refuse to sign off on it. In child support cases, you will need an experienced attorney to guide you through the process and ensure that support is both fair and equitable to you.
Payment of Child Support
Child support is generally paid through Michigan State Disbursement Unit (MISDU). This allows for accurate record keeping and prompt and in-expensive enforcement if an arrearage accrues. Support can also be set up between the parties requiring forms to be filed opting out of Friend of the Court Services. If parties opt out of FOC enforcement, then direct support payments are made to the other parent and you will need to keep precise records and receipts showing payments made or not made.
If a parent is ordered to pay child support, an order of income withholding may issue compelling his or her employer to automatically deduct the amount from each paycheck. This requires the non-custodial parent’s employer (or other source of income) to withhold from his/her paycheck monies owing for child support.
If a payer fails to pay court ordered support, he or she may be held in contempt of court and potentially serve a jail term for contempt.
Child Support Arrearages and Enforcement for Non-Payment
If child support is order and the parent does not pay, an arrearage of child support begins and will grow with each non-payment. There are numerous ways to enforce payment of support.
Some such collection mechanisms are a Motion for Contempt, which brings the non-paying parent before the court to be held accountable for violating (i.e., not paying) the child-support order. A parent can also seek an Order to Show Cause, which is a Quasi-Criminal Contempt proceeding which requires the non-paying parent to appear before the court and show cause as to why he failed to pay. Failure to appear for a Show Cause Hearing will result in a bench warrant being issued by the court. In both of these motions, the judge is granted authority to assess sanctions in addition to payment of the unpaid support, award attorney fees, and even sentence the non-paying parent to jail for a period of time.
In Cases where the support arrearage increases beyond $5,000, additional problems for non-paying parents arise. In these cases, once the $5,000 threshold is reached, the non-paying parent is subject to Felony Charges for nonpayment of child support. This will not only put a felony on the non-paying parent’s record, but it can potentially result in extended jail time or prison.
It is important to know, that child support is not retroactively modifiable. Once support is ordered, if not paid, the unpaid amount cannot be changed or modified. More specifically, suppose there is a $2,000 arrearage for the paying parent because the parties reconciled and began living together again, so there was no need to pay support. If the paying parent did not file a motion to modify support, the court cannot later on, order that amount forgiven (there are limited exceptions to this). It will remain as an arrearage until paid.
Our Child Support attorneys can guide you through the entire support process and counsel you if you are seeking support, seeking to reduce support, or have an arrearage you need cleared for good cause.
Modification of Child Support
As with Child Custody, the amount to be paid in Child Support is always modifiable. Child support is modifiable upon a showing of “changed circumstances.” Support is usually ordered until the minor child reaches the age of eighteen or graduates from high school, whichever occurs last. In some circumstances support may be continued beyond the age of 18.
There are numerous reasons to change child support. It is important to know when to modify the support. When a change in circumstances occurs, do not wait to consult us, waiting can cause a build up of support you may not need to pay. Some basic reasons to change support can include:
Loss of employment/Laid off
Reduction of income
Child is residing with you, i.e., change in parenting time
Reconciliation of parents
Increase in income of non-paying parent
Introduction of or elimination of child care expenses
If you have a question whether or not you should file a motion to modify child support, please call one of our child support attorneys and get guidance on what steps you should take.
Failure to Pay Child Support and Parenting Time
Another often misunderstood nuance of paying child support is if a non-custodial (i.e., the paying) parent is denied visitation, it is not the right of that parent to stop making child support payments. Child support payments must continue. The Court views support and visitation as separate issues to be considered separately and distinctly from each other. If visitation is denied contrary to a court order, or if child support is not paid contrary to a court order, the court will enforce either on behalf of the aggrieved party. A non-custodial parent should not take “the law into their own hands” and withhold child support because he/she has been denied visitation. To do so would be a violation of the Child Support Order which is an order separate from the custody and parenting time order. Conversely, a custodial parent should not deny visitation for the failure to receive child support. This too, is a violation of the child custody and parenting time order which again, is separate from the child support order.
To learn more about child support, please call at (734) 282-6037 or send us a message below so we can discuss and provide guidance on child support issues. Consultations are always free.