Child support is a serious obligation, and it can also become very expensive. The courts will require that a child has sufficient funding for things like education, healthcare, daycare, food, and shelter until they reach adulthood. They have a standard formula that is used to estimate these costs and determine support amounts in all cases within Michigan.
While these costs are often shared to a certain extent, the non-custodial parent is in the difficult situation of having to put aside a significant amount of income towards these costs. If they fall behind or miss payments, the consequences can be serious.
Can I avoid child support obligations?
As a general rule, child support obligations will not go away until the child reaches 18 years old. Once an order for child support is in place, even if it is modified to a lesser amount the obligation will likely stay unless the parent who was paying is suddenly awarded primary custody or some other drastic change occurs. If the court finds out that someone if trying to go out of their way to hide their income or dodge attempts to collect money that is supposed to be used for support, there are consequences that can affect someone’s finances even further or even land them in jail. Obligations for support may even extend beyond the child’s 18th birthday until they graduate if they are in school full time. In other words, this is a long-term commitment.
Scheduling a hearing to modify child support
Payments can be modified after an initial order is in place, but there must be some kind of proof of a change in jobs or other circumstances that would warrant deviation from the previous order. During the hearing, your lawyer can make an argument that something such as a move to a different location, change in employment, or even neglect by the other parent is sufficient to modify child support.
It is best to have documentation to prove any important points and view the guidelines for modifying child support in Michigan before any hearings take place. This is because an order will not necessarily be modified unless both parents can agree to the new terms favorably, or the courts have been given specific proof of one of the reasons allowed by law.
Trying for changes in custody
Child support is also partially determined by who has primary custody. This means that the parent who is with the child most of the time is assumed to be paying for various things as a matter of course, so they are not obligated to make any additional payments. Although it is rare, if there are sufficient grounds to warrant a change in custody, the court may allow the child to stay with the other parent and switch custody when they present a convincing argument. In many cases, this may require a finding of some kind of irresponsibility by the parent with primary custody to warrant a change, rather than an increase in income or other less serious matters. An attorney can help you schedule a special custody hearing and make a convincing argument if you feel that you should be awarded custody.
What happens if payments are missed or insufficient?
The state of Michigan has a disbursement unit that automatically withholds required amounts from a person’s wages. All employers are required to do this by law once one of their employees is subject to an order. In this sense, it is not easy to miss payments as long as the person is employed, because the procedure is mostly out of the obligee’s control.
The court may attempt to garnish wages, report the person to credit bureaus, or take other more drastic financial matters to get the funds owed such as intercept tax refunds or put liens on property such as houses or cars. Eventually, they can suspend a person’s driver’s license or even hold them in contempt if payments are not being made. Some contempt proceedings may result in jail time. Because these consequences are so serious, it is best to get the services of a family attorney sooner rather than later if you are having trouble making child support payments.
To summarize, it is always difficult to make changes to child support or custody once the courts have been involved and start making decisions about how much needs to be paid. This is why it is so crucial to get help from an experienced child support lawyer as early in the process as possible before any problems arise.
Get in touch with a family law attorney in your area
To learn more about child support, custody, divorces, and related issues in the Grand Rapids area, contact Gordon and Hess. They assist clients with problems in the family courts throughout the state of Michigan.