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How Michigan courts determine child support payments

Stories abound in Michigan about the aftermath of divorce and the cost of child support. Those stories tell of unfair payment amounts that prevent noncustodial parents from having a nice apartment, new car or some of life's little extras, such as tickets to a football game. Some of these tales are surely exaggerations, while others may seem to be all too true. So, how is the amount of child support payments determined?

Michigan law provides guidelines for determining a child's needs and a formula for arriving at a payment amount. Additional factors to consider are the parents' net incomes and the number of children. If parents are sharing custody, the court adjusts the formula to account for nights the child stays with each parent.

For the child's health care needs, the court may require a parent to provide insurance coverage. The parents then split the cost of premiums. In cases requiring child care services, they split those costs as well.

If a parent does not have a job but is able to work, he or she is not exempt from paying child support. The court uses potential earnings based on the parent's skills and local job market to determine the amount. Because life does not stop, payments do not stop either.

According to the American Bar Association, state and federal laws require employers to deduct child support from the obligor's paychecks. If the parent changes jobs, it is easy to miss a payment or two, as new employers must receive notice before beginning wage deductions. It is also possible the obligor may try to avoid wage garnishment by seeking payment "under the table" from an employer. Either way, the amount continues to accrue.

Federal and state agencies have other methods of collecting child support, including intercepting income tax refunds and placing a lien on the obligor's house or car. A judge may also order the obligor to serve a jail sentence, pay a fine, or both for willfully avoiding payments. The custodial parent has a few more options to enforce child support orders, and they are to seek help from an attorney or collection agency.

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Lorrie J. Zahodnic

"I will hold you up until you can stand on your own two feet."

Lorrie J. Zahodnic, P.C. has provided skilled and compassionate legal guidance to Michiganders in family law matters for over 20 years.

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