The following is a brief description of a family support case. There is no specific information available in this Self-Help Center to aid you with the entire legal process in a family support case. Because of the importance of the outcome, it may be advisable to contact an attorney.
There are usually two types of family support cases. One type of case involves married parents who are separated but not divorced. The other case type involves unmarried parents when the biological father has signed a paternity acknowledgment. When a man signs a paternity acknowledgment, he is declaring that he is the biological father of the child. See information about paternity. For information about the law, see the Family Support Act.
Filing a Family Support Case Generally
If you are starting the family support action, you are called the plaintiff and the other parent is the defendant. The plaintiff must file a complaint asking the court to grant support. There is a filing fee for this action. If a divorce or separate maintenance case is already pending between the plaintiff and the other parent, a family support case cannot be filed.
The family division of circuit court handles all family support cases in Michigan. If you want to file a family support case, you must file it in the county in which you live.
Many family support cases begin because two parents have separated and one parent has applied for some form of state assistance such as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). When this occurs the county Department of Human Services (DHS) will send a request (called a referral) to the county prosecutor asking that a family support case be filed. However, a parent does not have to apply for or be receiving state assistance to start a family support case. A parent who would like to start a family support case and is not receiving state assistance should contact the county DHS office and ask for an appointment. See addresses and phone number of all county DHS offices.
Processing Family Support Cases Generally
Most family support cases are processed in the same manner. A complaint must be filed, fees must be paid, a summons must be issued, the parties must be served notice of the complaint, hearings must be scheduled and noticed, answers must be given, and hearings must be attended. The end result of the case will be entry of an order. General information about court forms, fees, service, hearings, finding legal information, and how the courts operate can be found in this Self-Help Center by clicking on any of the topics in the horizontal bar at the top of this page. Specific information about processing a family support case is not provided, but there are more details about general case processing.
Certain procedures must be followed to get a court order for family support. These procedures are stated in the Michigan Compiled Laws and Michigan Court Rules, but keep in mind that courts may have local practices in addition to these laws and court rules. You should check with your local friend of the court office to find out what types of services they provide with regard to processing your case.
Family Support Order
If family support is granted, a judge will order one parent to pay child support to the other parent. You may want to view the Michigan Child Support Formula Manual. You may also want to view the Model Friend of the Court Handbook for some common child support questions and answers. See details about custody and parenting time.
If the parents are in agreement about custody and/or parenting time, the judge will most likely include that agreement in the family support order. If the parents are not in agreement about custody and/or parenting time, the judge will order temporary custody and parenting time until a hearing. The friend of the court may be asked to complete an evaluation before the hearing. You may want to view the following regarding custody and/or parenting time:
Michigan Custody Guideline
Michigan Parenting Time Guideline
Custody and Parenting Time Investigation Manual
A family support order can be changed if necessary. See details for changing a child support order, custody order, or parenting time order.
Enforcing the Order
Unless parties have opted not to receive friend of the court services, the friend of the court will enforce child support, custody, and parenting time orders
If a parent moves out of state, child support is still enforced. You may want to view the State Court Administrative Office's publication regarding the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act.