FAMILY LAW BLOG
Submitted by Courtney J. Marshall
In this week’s family law blog, we’re talking about child support. Child support in Michigan is determined by a formula often referred to as child support guidelines. I’ll be referring to the guidelines throughout this article, but the official name of the governing authority for child support is the 2017 Michigan Child Support Formula Manual and it tells us everything from what is income, to what to do if a party isn’t earning income but should be, to what you need to convince a court to approve a child support amount that is higher or lower than the guidelines.
In a nutshell, the guidelines help courts establish a child support amount that adequately provides for the needs of the children, while accurately taking into consideration the resources of the parents. In order to determine what amount of child support a party will be paying, a calculation must be performed using specific information. The specific information needed includes: 1) the income for each party, 2) how many children will be supported, 3) whether either party has other dependent minor children, 4) the number of overnights the child(ren) spend with each parent, 5) the tax filing status for each parent, 6) tax exemptions claimed by each parent, 7) which parent claims the child(ren) on his/her tax return, 8) any child care costs paid by either party for the children being supported, and 9) the health insurance premium paid by either party to cover the child(ren). This information is plugged into a computer program – a free version of which is available to the public at www.micase.state.mi.us – and a child support recommendation based on the guidelines using the information provided is generated. In most cases, that figure then is used in a uniform child support order and that order governs the payment of child support in the case.
Many people ask whether they can agree to an amount of child support that is different from what the guidelines recommend and the answer to that is yes, provided that the judge approves it. Any child support amount that differs from the amount recommended by the guidelines, is called a deviation. A deviation can be upward, meaning higher than the recommended amount, or downward, which means lower than the recommended amount. A deviation from the recommended about of child support is subject to approval by the judge and the reason for the deviation must be set forth in a deviation addendum attached to the uniform child support order. Deviation factors include things like special needs of the child, the court awards property for the benefit of the child(ren) in lieu of support, a child earns extraordinary income, a parent is in bankruptcy, or any factor the court finds relevant. Parties can even agree to zero child support being paid as long as the judge approves it.
The Michigan State Disbursement Unit (MiSDU) is the central child support processing agency for the state of Michigan. Unless a friend of the court opt-out has been granted, all child support is processed through MiSDU.
Another common question is how we treat a parent with no income, a topic that I’ll address in our next family law blog!
In the meantime, if you find yourself with questions regarding child support, give us a call at 866-yourrights or visit us on the web at yourrights.com.
Happy Holidays from the family law department with the Law Offices of Joumana Kayrouz!