Michigan Child Support Basics
Both parents are responsible for supporting their children in Michigan. This obligation normally continues until the child turns 18 but may extend beyond that if the child is still in high school or has special needs.
Typically, only the noncustodial parent will make child support payments. While the custodial parent is also responsible for supporting the child, Michigan child support laws assume that this parent spends the required amount directly on the child.
Michigan child support usually includes a base monthly amount, plus additional child support for health care and child care costs.
How is Child Support Determined in Michigan?
The Michigan Child Support Formula determines which parent pays child support and in what amount, based on factors including each parent’s income and the number of nights per year that the child spends with each parent.
The person who pays child support is the “payer.” The person who gets child support is the “payee.” If the payee or the child receives public assistance, the child support payments may go to the state instead of the payee.
To use the Michigan Child Support Formula, you need to know both parents’ net income and the parenting time each has with the child.
Net income is all gross income minus certain adjustments and deductions, including alimony received and income taxes, among other payments and premiums paid.
Gross income includes your salary, wages, commissions, overtime pay, bonuses, royalties, tips, dividends, military specialty pay, and possibly gambling winnings.
Net income sets a baseline for the child’s support amount, and the formula divides the amount of support between the parents differently depending on parenting time.
The state has developed the MI Child Support Calculator to help parents calculate child support using the Michigan Child Support Formula. The child support calculation provided by this calculator is not a support recommendation or a support order.
It takes about 30 minutes to create a child support amount. You should have each party’s income information and the number of overnights with each child for both parents before starting.
When child support is ordered, the judge issues a Uniform Child Support Order (UCSO). The UCSO requires the payer to pay a monthly child support amount for child support and may order one or both parents to provide health insurance for the child.
The child support order also includes amounts for child care and ordinary medical expenses (currently $454 per year for one child). Ordinary medical expenses are costs for uninsured medical expenses like co-pays and deductibles.
Read More: Divorce Laws in Michigan
Deviating from Guideline Child Support
Michigan courts presume that support calculated by the formula is appropriate for your child. However, sometimes a standardized result can be unfair. Either parent can ask the judge to adjust the amount of support before a final order is in place. To determine a different amount, the judge will consider the following factors:
- the child’s needs
- the child’s extraordinary educational expenses
- whether a parent is a minor
- if a parent has sufficient income to pay additional support to raise the child’s standard of living above the threshold for public assistance
- whether the parents accumulated high levels of joint debt
- where the court awards property instead of support
- if a parent is incarcerated with minimal or no income or assets
- where there are extraordinary medical expenses
- if the formula did not account for the full extent of a parent’s income
- where a parent earns bonuses at irregular intervals
- if someone other than the parent can supply health care
- where a parent provides substantially all the support for a stepchild
- if a child earns an extraordinary income
- if there is a court order to pay other expenses
- where a parent’s criminal fines or fees related to child support or a family member
- whether a parent is in bankruptcy
- the day-care and other parent’s costs not reflected by overnights used to calculate the offset for parental time
- where the child is in the custody of someone other than a parent
- certain spousal support orders
- where a parent’s share of child care expenses exceeds 50% of that parent’s base child support obligation before applying the parental time offset, and
- any other factor relevant to the best interests of the child.
Read More: Uncontested Divorce in Michigan
Is Health Insurance Considered a Part of Child Support?
The court also can order either parent to provide health insurance for a child as part of a support order when coverage is available at a reasonable cost. Reasonable is defined as not exceeding 6% of the parent’s gross monthly income.
The following chart gives a better idea of how health coverage is handled in Michigan child support cases.
When Does Child Support End in Michigan?
Michigan child support usually ends when a child turns 18. However, a judge can order support for a child between 18 and 19 ½ if the child attends high school full-time and has a reasonable expectation of graduating.
Read More: How to File for Divorce in Michigan
How Do I Ask for Child Support?
Either parent can start the application process for child support by contacting the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. A parent can apply for child support services online, as noted above, or can print out the application and mail it to:
Michigan Office of Child Support
Central Functions Unit
P.O. Box 30744
Lansing, MI 48909
Enforcing Michigan Child Support Orders
Under Title IV-D of the Social Security Act, the FOCB and the Office of Child Support (OCS) must begin support enforcement action when past-due child support is greater or equal to the monthly child support amount. Overdue support is called child support arrears.
There are several ways child support orders can be enforced:
Income Withholding. All child support orders require income withholding unless the parties and the court otherwise agree. The employer must send payment to the Michigan State Disbursement Unit (MiSDU). Income withholding can also affect unemployment benefits, Social Security benefits, independent contracting, and worker’s compensation or insurance claims.
Show Cause Hearings. The court can hold a hearing for the payer to “show cause” why the payer should not be found in contempt for failing to pay support or provide health care coverage.
Surcharge on Child Support Arrears. A surcharge will only be added to the payer’s amount if the court finds that the payer willfully failed to pay support as ordered.
Credit Reporting. The payer will be reported to a consumer-reporting agency if the arrearage reaches two or more months.
Felony Nonsupport. Failure to pay child support can be charged as a felony in Michigan. Felony non-support charges are generally issued after other child support collection methods have not been successful.
License Suspension. The court can suspend professional, sporting, recreational, and driver’s licenses if the payer has an arrearage of two or more months.
Liens. Liens can be issued against real or personal property, financial assets, or insurance proceeds.
Passport Denial. A payer’s passport may be denied or revoked once the support arrearage reaches $2,500.
Tax Offset. State and federal tax refunds can be intercepted to pay support.
Vehicle Booting. A boot is an immobilization device placed on a payer’s vehicle when the payer has a bench warrant for failing to appear for a contempt hearing.
Contempt of Court. The court can schedule a contempt hearing, and if a judge decides the payer could pay some or all of the amount owed, the payer can be held in contempt, and any of the above actions could be implemented.
Modifying Michigan Child Support Payments
Once a child support order is in place, you can ask a judge to modify it. Suppose it has been less than 36 months since the current order was issued. In that case, a judge may modify it only upon finding a substantial change in a parent’s circumstances, such as when a parent becomes sick or injured and can’t work or if a parent is called to active military duty.
Otherwise, the Friend of the Court can review a child support order every 36 months to ensure payments meet the child’s needs. Under some circumstances, like where custody has changed, the Friend could initiate child support modifications sooner.
Child Support and Taxes
Child support payments are neither deductible by the payer nor taxable to the recipient. Don’t include child support payments received when you calculate your gross income.
However, you may be able to claim the child as a dependent. Generally, the custodial parent is treated as one who provides more than half of the child’s support. In some cases, the noncustodial parent may be treated as the parent who provided more than half of the child’s support.
Many agreements include a provision that each parent declares half the children as dependents when there is an even number of children. The parents can alternate years claiming the child for an odd number of children. In this situation, parents may need to submit Form 8332, Release/Revocation of Release of Claim to Exemption for Child by Custodial Parent, or a similar statement.
Establishing Paternity in Michigan
Establishing a legal father is important for a child born to unmarried parents. It gives the child the same rights and benefits as those of a child whose parents are married. These benefits can include:
Establishing paternity can take place in several ways. If parents are married to each other when a child is born or when the mother became pregnant, the mother’s husband is the child’s legal father.
Unmarried parents can establish paternity by:
- Voluntarily by completing an Affidavit of Parentage form. This means they agree to name the father of the child.
- Either parent or a prosecuting attorney can ask the court to help establish paternity. This usually involves DNA (genetic) paternity testing and a court hearing.
- Through adoption.
You can get the Affidavit form needed to establish paternity:
- In the hospital at birth
- At your local Michigan Department of Health and Human Services office
- At the local County Registrar’s Office
- Online by completing an Affidavit of Parentage form
A parent who lives in Michigan can file a paternity case in the county where the mother or child lives. If the mother and child do not live in Michigan, a parent can file the case in the county where the possible father lives.
Can paternity be established if the father lives outside of Michigan?
Yes, the Michigan Child Support Program can work with another state to help establish paternity. The father can also sign the affidavit to say he is the child’s father, even if he lives in another state.
Which Agency Handles Child Support Matters in Michigan?
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Office of Child Support works in conjunction with the Friend of the Court Bureau (FOCB) as the primary agency responsible for state child support administration.
Call the Office of Child Support at 866-540-0008 for:
- Bankruptcy (payer) impacts on enforcement of child support
- Passport denial/ Income tax refund offset program
- Enforcement through the recovery of financial assets
- To begin a child support case
- To voluntarily establish paternity (add the name of the father to the birth certificate)
- Assistance in locating a parent
The FOCB’s primary functions include:
- Establish and implement child support, custody, and parenting time policy and guidelines.
- Develop forms for litigants.
- Develop public education and orientation programs.
- Develop standards for procedures to transfer part or all of the responsibilities for a case from one office to another.
- Develop the Michigan Child Support Formula.
- Develop caseload and staffing standards.
- Develop guidelines to encourage plain language.
- Issue an annual grievance report.
- Certify alternative dispute resolution training programs.
The State Court Administrative office is located at:
Friend of the Court Bureau
Michigan Supreme Court
PO Box 30048
Lansing, MI 48909
There are also several local FOCB offices throughout Michigan.
Another important resource is the Michigan Child Support website. It gives parents access to payment information, current child support amounts owed, income withholding information, bench warrant, and enforcement hearing information.
You can also access a 24-hour Interactive Voice Response (IVR) System at 877-543-2660. This will direct you to your Friend of the Court for:
- Investigating, modifying, or enforcing a court order for custody, parenting time, and support
- Registering Michigan orders in other states
- Providing alternative dispute resolution through mediation programs
- Assistance in locating a parent
- Any child support court case hearing or other related activity
The 24-hour Interactive Voice Response can also direct you to the Michigan State Disbursement Unit for:
- Making a child support payment
- Address change (for payments or coupon mailings)
- Questions on payment coupons
- Questions about child support payments
- Lost/stolen child support checks
- Electronic Disbursement (debit card and direct deposit)
Call your local Prosecuting Attorney for:
- Establishing paternity and DNA testing by a court order
- Establishing child support amount in court orders
It’s important to note there are county differences in the modification process. Under Michigan law, the Prosecuting Attorney performs the modification service in some counties and by the Friend of the Court in others.