Child Support Laws

The dissolution of marriage is a complex and often overwhelming experience. Even though you likely have good reason to seek divorce, annulment, or legal separation, it’s never easy to admit that the future you planned is no longer viable.

This can be especially heartbreaking when children are involved. While adults have a choice in the matter, children have little say, and must abide by the decisions of their parents, or in some cases, the court.

Further complicating the matter are the issues of child custody and child support, and these can become contentious even if both parents are interested in the well-being of their children. It is for this reason that states have laws pertaining to child support, to help determine what is required financially to ensure children are cared for following divorce.

How does child support work in the state of Michigan? What can you expect if you are a parent with or without child custody? Here’s what you need to know.

Child Support Laws in Michigan

In the state of Michigan, both parents bear a legal responsibility to financially support children following divorce. The determination of this support is dependent on several factors, but is meant to be more or less equal and fair. Child support can be set during divorce proceedings, or alternately, a custody case, a support case, or a paternity case.

When a Michigan court orders a parent to pay child support, it issues a Uniform Child Support Order (UCSO) stating the amount to paid monthly. Payments are designed to ensure children receive proper care while they’re being raised, and so most court-ordered child support is terminated at the age of 18. It may continue to the age of 19½ in certain circumstances.

Child support is not a responsibility that can be shirked. Parents that give up legal and physical custody and forego visitation rights are not automatically relieved of their legal duty to support their children financially. In such situations, courts may still order non-custodial parents to pay child support.

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Generally speaking, child support payments are withheld from payer wages and forwarded to the payee (recipient), but there are cases where payments are made to the Michigan State Disbursement Unit (MiSDU) or directly from one parent to another, such as under agreement or due to self-employment. If payments do not go through MiSDU, the receiving parent must confirm payment in order for the payer to receive credit for payments made.

Even if the payer moves out of state and you find yourself dealing with child support out of state parent payments, the payer must continue to meet the court-ordered child support arrangement or face potential penalties and prosecution.

How is the Amount Determined?

The state of Michigan uses a formula to determine the amount of support each parent is responsible for, based on factors like income, the number of children, medical and childcare expenses, and of course, child custody. The idea is to ensure that one parent isn’t left solely responsible for the majority or all of the physical and financial needs of the children.

As per child support laws in Michigan, courts must use the Michigan Child Support Formula to calculate fair payment, although they can also take parent agreements into account. You can get an estimate of potential payments ahead of time by using the Michigan Child Support Calculator (MiChildSupport Calculator).

If both parents agree to an amount that is different from the figure calculated with the formula, they must fill out and file a Uniform Child Support Order Deviation Addendum, along with the standard UCSO. The UCSO includes a base amount for support payments, with adjustments for health insurance premiums. Costs for childcare (daycare) and ordinary medical expenses are also factored in.

What Does Child Support Cover?

Child support is intended to ensure that children’s financial needs are met following divorce, including daily living expenses and the costs of healthcare and childcare. The base amount determined by the Michigan Child Support Formula should cover standard living expenses, and the costs of health insurance premiums may affect this number.

If the payer of child support also pays for health insurance for children, he/she may be able to deduct these costs from child support payments. If a payee covers health insurance, the payer may have to compensate with higher child support payments. Payments for additional medical expenses (co-pays, deductibles, and any costs not covered by health insurance) must be split between parents, and the same goes for childcare, with the percentage of payments determined as part of the UCSO.

The process is complicated, and parents concerned about paying child support or seeking payment are best served by hiring qualified family law attorneys to guide them through.