Child Support Formula
Federal and state law requires a child support formula to be used to determine how much child support a parent must pay. That formula considers the parents’ incomes and other factors. The court may set a different support amount, but only if the judge explains in writing or during a court hearing why the formula number is unjust or inappropriate. For more information about the child support formula, see Facts about the Michigan Child Support Formula (PSA 24).
Modification of a Child Support Order
The FOC will review child support orders automatically once every 36 months if the child or the custodial parent is receiving public assistance. In other cases, the FOC will conduct a review on written request by a party, but not more often than once every 36 months, unless the party proves a substantial change in circumstances. A party who needs an immediate change in the support amount should file a court motion requesting the change. Click here to obtain a MOTION REGARDING SUPPORT. A party who wishes to answer the statements made in the Motion Regarding Support can do so by filing a RESPONSE TO MOTION REGARDING SUPPORT.
Merely notifying the FOC that one parent’s financial situation has changed cannot automatically change the ordered support amount.
Party’s Motion to Modify the Support Order
A party may file a motion to change the support order. The FOC will provide forms and instructions to a party who wishes to file this type of motion without the assistance of an attorney, but will not complete the motion for the party. Alternatively, a party may hire an attorney to file a modification motion.
Agreement to Modify the Support Order
If the parties agree to change the support amount to a different amount determined by the child support formula, they may sign an agreement. That agreement, once put in the form of an order, signed by the judge, and filed with the court clerk, becomes the new support order.
Retroactive Modification of Support Generally Not Allowed: Exception
Once child support is ordered, a later increase or decrease in the support amount generally cannot apply to any time period before the date that the motion for a change was filed. Michigan law recognizes one exception to that rule: a court may modify support retroactively if a party who has been ordered to do so has intentionally failed to report an income change to the FOC or has misrepresented that party’s income.
SUPPORT ORDER REVIEWS Michelle Kovach--(231) 779-9494, ext. 2006
The FOC is required to periodically review an order’s child support provisions, including health care. Clients are welcome to submit a CHILD SUPPORT REVIEW REQUEST and if eligible, the FOC will review the child support provisions of that case. If it is found that a change is warranted, the FOC will ask the court to modify the order (see Modification of a Support Order). As part of this periodic support review, the FOC may request information, such as a parent’s earnings, details of any dependent health care coverage available as a benefit of employment, specifics about a tax refund, and job or education history. The court can also order an evaluation of the current order’s support. If either party disagrees with the result of the child support review, they are welcome to file an OBJECTION TO CHILD SUPPORT REVIEW.
Threshold for the Friend of the Court to Modify the Support Order
The FOC will ask the court to change the monthly support payment if the difference between the current support amount and the amount determined by the standard child support formula (using the party’s most recent income data) is at least 10 percent or $50.00 per month, whichever is greater. If the difference between the current support amount and the current formula amount is less than that minimum threshold, the FOC is not required to request a change.
PAYMENT HISTORY Annette Janson--(231) 779-9494, ext. 2003
Unless otherwise ordered, support payers must make their payments to the Michigan State Disbursement Unit (MiSDU). When a payment received by the MiSDU sufficiently identifies the person to whom the support should be paid, the MiSDU must forward the money to the recipient within two business days. In most cases, support payments are automatically withheld from a payer’s wages or other sources of income. A payer who pays the MiSDU directly should clearly identify the case number with the payment. Do not send cash through the mail. Once a year, upon a written request, the FOC will give the parties a statement of their support account for $1 per page. Information regarding a support account is available through the MiSDU or online through MiCase. A party may also call the office that has the support order.
Criminal Nonpayment of Support
Federal and state law makes failure to pay child support a criminal offense. The FOC does not bring felony charges. Charges based on Michigan law are filed and prosecuted by county prosecutors or the Attorney General. Federal charges are prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s office.
CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT Kim Recca--(231) 779-9494, ext. 2010
When support payments are more than a full 60 days past due, the FOC must begin enforcement action without waiting for a request for enforcement. Payees can request to have a child support enforcement action carried out by filing a CHILD SUPPORT COMPLAINT/ENFORCEMENT REQUEST. Some enforcement begins immediately following entry of an order, including income withholding and enforcement of health insurance coverage. The FOC has several methods of collecting past due support payments. They include:
Immediate Income Withholding
The FOC can require the support payer’s employer (or other income source) to withhold some of the support payer’s income and send the money to the MiSDU. The payer will be notified before the income withholding starts by receiving a copy of the income withholding notice. The FOC can administratively adjust (usually by increasing) the income withholding if there is an arrearage on the case, but the FOC office must first send the payer a notice of arrearage. The payer can object to the adjustment after receiving the notice of arrearage. The withheld amount cannot exceed 50 percent of the payer’s disposable earnings.
Support orders must provide for income withholding even without a showing that the support payer has missed payments or is likely to do so. A court may not require income withholding only if it finds “good cause” for departing from the general rule. Good cause exists when all the following exist:
||• The court makes a specific written finding that income withholding is not in the best interests of the child;
||• All previously ordered support has been paid on time; and
||• The payer agrees to keep the FOC informed of the name, address, and telephone number of his/her current source of income, and about any health care coverage offered by the payer’s employer or coverage that the payer purchases directly from a health insurer.
If “good cause” is not found, the parties can still request that income withholding not be put in place. Both parties and the court can agree that income withholding will not take effect immediately because a satisfactory alternative payment arrangement has been made. Even in this situation, the payer must keep the FOC informed of the name, address, and telephone number of his/her current source of income, and about any health care coverage offered by the payer’s employer or coverage that the payer purchases directly from a health insurer.
Contempt of Court (Show-Cause Hearing)
If support is not paid on time, the FOC or a party may begin a contempt action against the payer. The court will order the payer to appear in court and “show cause” why the court should not find the payer “in contempt of court.” If you fail to appear for a show-cause hearing, the court may issue a bench warrant for your arrest. If you are found in contempt of court, the penalties may suspend licenses, may order participation in a work activity (FOCAP) or participation in community corrections, may place the payer under FOC supervision, and/or may order jail time of up to 45 days (90 days for a second offense). For more information about show-cause proceedings, see Show Cause Proceedings in Domestic Relations Cases (PSA 25).
Income Tax Intercept
If child support is overdue and the case otherwise satisfies federal and state requirements, the FOC must request an income tax “intercept.” In such cases, any tax refund to which the support payer is entitled will be used to pay past due support. For more information about tax intercepts, see Tax Refund Offset Program (PSA 13).
Other Enforcement Remedies If the payer is more than two months behind on support payments, the FOC must report the arrearage to a consumer credit reporting agency. The court may also suspend the payer’s driving, occupational, sporting, and/or recreational licenses and passports. Also, the FOC may place a lien on the payer’s real and personal property, which then can be sold to pay the support arrearage.
FOCAP Rob Kulpa--(231) 779-9494, ext. 2007
FOCAP (the Friend of the Court Assistance Program) is a job search assistance program that meets during every Friend of the Court and Wexford County Judge's show cause throughout the year. Those who participate in the program either do so by enforcement caseworker recommendation, by Court order, or can also do so voluntarily. Participants are provided with job leads and can also receive assistance with resume building, interview tips, information regarding filling out applications, and other matters involving their FOC case. Those who participate in FOCAP can also volunteer at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Cadillac, The Shepherd's Table in Cadillac, or at Friends' Ministries in Lake City.
HEALTH CARE ENFORCEMENT Lisa Redman--(231) 779-9494, ext. 2011
The court may order one or both parents to provide health insurance coverage for the children. If the court orders a parent to obtain available health insurance coverage from an employer and the parent fails to do so, the FOC will send a medical support notice to the parent’s employer. The employer then must enroll the employee’s children in the employer’s plan and deduct the premiums from the employee’s wages. According to the Michigan Child Support Formula, a reasonable cost for providing private health care coverage for the children does not exceed five percent of the providing parent’s gross income. Clients are able to provide insurance information to the other parent or to the FOC file by filling out and returning the INSURANCE INFORMATION form and returning it to the FOC office. The FOC will help collect the other parent’s share of extraordinary medical expenses if the following four conditions are satisfied:
|| The amount exceeds the annual ordinary amount in the order, or the requesting parent is the support payer.
|| One parent requested payment from the other parent within 28 days after receiving an insurer’s determination that an expense was not covered.
|| The other parent did not pay within 28 days of the request for payment.
|| The FOC’s assistance is requested within one year after incurring the expense, or within six months after the insurer has denied coverage, or within six months after the other parent failed to pay as required.
If the FOC receives a parent’s REQUEST FOR HEALTH CARE EXPENSE PAYMENT that meets those four requirements, the FOC will notify the other parent that, if no objection is filed within 21 days, the unpaid amount will become a support arrearage and subject to any of the enforcement processes summarized earlier. If an objection is filed, the FOC must schedule a court hearing to decide who is responsible for the amount that the health insurer did not pay. If health insurance is not provided through the support order, coverage might be available through MI-Child or Medicaid programs. Find more information about Medicaid programs online here. You may also go to HealthCare.gov to find out how to receive health care benefits.
INTERGOVERNMENTAL CASES Renee Pollington--(231) 779-9494, ext. 2009
The obligation to pay child support does not end when a party no longer lives in Michigan. Both parents must notify the FOC whenever they relocate. The support payer must continue to pay support and the FOC must continue to enforce the court order. If a support payer no longer resides in Michigan and stops paying as ordered, there are laws that allow Michigan courts to have their support orders enforced in other states and in a limited number of foreign countries. For example, every state has passed a law that allows a court in another state to withhold the payer’s income, enforce the order, set or modify a support order, or assist with finding the payer’s assets. For more information, see The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) (PSA 29) located at: UNIFORM INTERSTATE FAMILY SUPPORT ACT (UIFSA).
STATE-OWED ARREARS MANAGEMENT Rob Kulpa--(231) 779-9494, ext. 2007
A program has been developed by the Michigan Office of Child Support that may allow for a discharge of some or all of the child support arrears owed to the State of Michigan. Cases that may be eligible for a discharge of state-owed arrears include those in which the parties in the case are now married, as well as child support payers who are experiencing extreme financial difficulty. To see if you qualify for a discharge of state-owed arrears, contact the FOC office or download and fully complete the REQUEST TO DISCHARGE STATE-OWED DEBT (DHS-681) and return it to the Wexford/Missaukee Friend of the Court, 401 N. Lake St., Cadillac, MI 49601.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT SUPPORT