Child and Spousal Support Matters
The following provides general information about child and spousal support. There is no specific information available in this Self-Help Center to aid you in establishing support because it is done through either a divorce case, a family support case, or a paternity case, and specific self-help is not available on this website for any of those types of cases. For specific information on processing a request to change an existing support order, see the Changing a Support Order Self-Help Center. You may want to view the pamphlet, It's Important to Know Your Rights.
A child support order is a court order directing a parent to pay a specific amount of money for the support of each minor child of that parent who is not living with him or her. Support orders may be issued as part of a divorce settlement, family support case, paternity action, or interstate child support case. You may want to view the Model Friend of the Court Handbook
for some common child support questions and answers.
To obtain a child support order, you may either contact an attorney, represent yourself, or make an appointment with your local Department of Human Services
(DHS). The DHS makes referrals to the county prosecutor to obtain court orders for child support in both public assistance and nonpublic assistance cases.
After the judge signs the support order and it is filed with the court clerk, the case will normally be handled by the friend of the court office in the county where the case is filed. Child support continues until a child reaches the age of 18 or graduates from high school, whichever occurs last, but not past the age of 19 ½.
When a child support order is entered, the court will also order that the payments be automatically deducted from the noncustodial parent's paycheck. This is called income withholding. The employer sends payments to the State Disbursement Unit. The friend of the court will take action if payments are missed.
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
Property and Spouse Support
In addition to ending the marriage, a divorce will divide the belongings and debts accumulated during the marriage and decide whether spousal support (formerly known as alimony) is required. The term spousal support refers to an amount of money the court orders one party to pay to support the other party.
Child Support Formula Manual
The child support formula became effective in 1987. The primary goal of the formula is to ensure children receive adequate financial support based upon their needs and the actual resources of each parent. The formula considers such factors as the income of each parent, family size, child care expenses, other minor children, and preexisting support orders.
Friend of the court offices, prosecuting attorneys, domestic relations referees, and circuit court judges are required to use the formula when establishing or changing support. If a judge sets an amount different from the amount recommended by the formula, the reasons must be stated either in writing or on the record.
Enforcing Support Orders
Unless you have opted not to receive the services of the friend of the court, the friend of the court will assist in enforcing support orders.
When parents cannot resolve problems regarding support, the friend of the court office in the county where the case is filed can help parents reach an agreement, and, if appropriate, take action to enforce the court order. You may want to view the Model Friend of the Court Handbook
for some common support questions and answers.
The most common method of collecting and enforcing support is through automatic income withholding through which support payments are deducted directly from the paycheck or other source of income of the support payer. Other methods of support enforcement include intercepting a payer's federal and state income tax refund; supplying arrearage information to credit reporting agencies; suspending driver's, occupational, sporting, and recreational licenses; placing liens against any real or personal property; and seeking an order to show cause that requires the payer to appear in court for nonpayment.
Information about Liens to Obtain Past Due Support
Show Cause Proceedings in Domestic Relations Cases
Tax Refund Offset Program
You may want to view the child support questions and answers in the Model Friend of the Court Handbook and the Support and Parenting Time Enforcement Act
. You may also want to view the following State Court Administrative Office publications regarding child support enforcement:
Changing Support Orders
Unless you have opted not to receive friend of the court services, the friend of the court will assist in changing support orders.
Once a support order has been entered, the court retains authority until the child reaches the age of 18, or until the child graduates from high school, but not later than when the child reaches 19 1/2 years of age.
If it has been more than 36months since a parent requested a child support review, that parent may submit a written request to the friend of the court to conduct a review. The law that governs the responsibilities to review child support can be found in the Friend of the Court Act at MCL 552.517
Some friend of the court offices will prepare a legal agreement (called a stipulation or consent order) for a change in support. This is a written agreement that is signed by both parents and submitted to the friend of the court office. Parents should check with their friend of the court office regarding office policy for preparing stipulations and consent orders. Find the address and phone number of your local friend of the court office
The court may change the support order if the parents agree or if a motion is filed and the court believes a change is appropriate. For additional information about how to file a motion to change a child support order and what else you need to do, see the Changing a Child Support Order Self-Help Center