When a couple is facing divorce, or an unmarried couple with children breaks up, few things are more anxiety-provoking than the subject of child support. Those who expect to pay worry that the amount expected of them will be too great a burden. Those who expect to receive child support fear the amount ordered will be insufficient for the children’s needs.
Making sure that parents are responsible for the financial support of their children is very important to the State of Michigan. It is so important, in fact, that parents cannot bargain away their child’s right to support. Child support is a right that belongs to the child, not the parents, so unlike other details of the divorce such as property settlement or spousal support (alimony), parents cannot simply agree on an amount that seems right to them.
Michigan courts require that child support be determined using the Michigan Child Support Formula. This formula uses an “income shares” model based on the income of each party. Essentially, each parent owes child support to the other parent based on their own income (from employment as well as other sources), and the amount of time (overnights) that the child spends with the other parent. These two amounts are set off against each other, with one party paying the net amount to the other. This is called the “base amount” of child support.
This calculation is complicated, and the math problem doesn’t end there. Payments for child care and health insurance are taken into account, as is the factor of which parent is claiming the child or children as dependents on their income tax return. If there are multiple children, and they spend varying amounts of time with each parent, determining child support becomes even more complex. While there are free online child support calculators available, they usually can’t take all relevant factors into account and are often inaccurate. Most Michigan attorneys purchase child support calculation software that is very similar to or the same as that used by the Friend of the Court so that they can properly advise their clients.
Michigan courts do have discretion to deviate up or down from the Michigan Child Support Formula when making a child support award, and may consider any factor they consider relevant. Some of the many factors that may be considered include whether a child has special needs, whether a parent receives bonus income in varying amounts or at irregular intervals, and whether a parent is incarcerated.
Schedule a Consultation with a Michigan Child Support Attorney
The amount of child support that the Friend of the Court recommends, and the court orders, is only going to be as fair as the numbers that are plugged into the formula. It’s critical to have the assistance of an experienced Michigan attorney to not only correctly identify sources and amounts of income, but to advocate for any appropriate deviations from the formula amount. Metro Detroit child support attorney Carlo Martina has over three decades of experience with the complexities of Michigan child support and the courts that award it. To schedule a consultation, call (734) 254-1140 or complete our contact form.