Michigan Child Support: What You Need To Know

Child Support In Michigan Isn’t Black & White

Occasionally, I end up taking part in conversations with non-lawyers about divorce law in Michigan. Inevitably, the conversation steers into discussions about spousal support and child support. What surprises me most often is the confusion about what child support is, how it is determined, and how often it is conflated with alimony and visitation. So, in the interest of clearing this up, I decided to put together this article.

What Is Child Support?

Child support is exactly what it sounds like. A parent is ordered by the court to provide financial support for their child. One myth I encounter is that you have to be in the process of a divorce to be ordered to pay child support. This is totally false. Parents can be ordered to pay child support even if they never married the child’s other parent.

In Michigan, child support usually ends at age 18, but can be continued until the age of 19 years and 6 months, as long as the child is on a path to graduate high school, and is living with the parent receiving the support full-time.

When a parent refuses to pay their court-ordered child support, or is paying less than ordered, the court can offer specific remedies, including wage garnishment, to rectify the payment discrepancy.

If you are the obligor (meaning you owe support) and your payments are in arrears, you may also have legal options to assist you. It is best to consult an attorney regarding these matters, as jail time is a distinct possibility.

How Is Michigan Child Support Calculated?

Michigan is one of twelve states that uses the income shares model to determine child support payments. But what does that mean?

The income shares model takes into account what level of support the child would receive if they were living in a home with both parents. Then, using the income of both parents, a child support payment is ordered.

For example, let’s say your child were to be receiving a total of $1,500 per month in support if you and your child’s other parent were raising them in the same household. Your income is $45,000/year and the other parent’s income is $25,000/year. Because your higher income is 65% of the total of the assets, then your payment would be around $975 per month. Of course this is a rough estimate, as the court has leeway if they determine the arrangement is unjust.

Typically, unjust refers to specific circumstances, such as if the child has special education needs that exceed the normal educational expenses, or excessive health care bills.

Spousal Support, Child Custody, and Child Support

While often lumped together in casual conversation, these are three different determinations made by the court system. Spousal support or alimony, is determined during the asset division in a divorce. The general rule of thumb suggests that the spouse receiving support should be able to maintain a household, and in certain cases, to be able to maintain a similar standard of living as previously existed in the marriage.

Alimony is not the same as child support. When determining child support, the court takes the financial needs of the child into consideration, independent of the parents’ financial needs. Generally, this is done using the aforementioned income shares model. You can always calculate your expected support payments through the state’s website.

Child custody is also determined separately. The standard the court applies when determining child custody is the best interests of the child. This is based on many factors, and can have an impact on the outcome of a child support determination, however, this is still handled separately by the court.

While these issues can seem complicated, contacting The Mitten Law Firm can help you sort things out. When the most important issues are at hand, you need someone that knows how to handle child support in Wayne County.