This article will explain how child support orders are enforced in the State of Michigan. If you have any questions about child support enforcement after you read this article, you should contact a family law attorney for advice.
Child Support in Michigan
Michigan child support includes monetary support (for basics like food, shelter and clothing) and health care, including insurance premiums and out-of-pocket expenses. For purposes of this article, the parent who receives child support is known as the "receiving parent," while the parent who has to pay is called "the paying parent."
Whether you're divorcing or you've never been married, when your relationship ends you need to get an official child support order. In Michigan, child support orders are determined according to each parent's net income and a mathematical formula known as the child support guidelines. For a detailed discussion of how child support is calculated, see The Overview of Child Support in Michigan by Susan Bishop.
Child support can be an area of high conflict for parents. Paying parents can be suspicious and angry that receiving parents are wasting child support money on adult luxuries. As a result, a paying parent may simply stop paying child support. In such cases, the receiving parent will need to know where he or she can go for help.
What Role Does the State of Michigan Play in Child Support Enforcement?
Within the Michigan Department of Human Services is an unit called the Office of Child Support (OCS). OCS was established to enforce state and federal laws about child support.
OCS performs a number of critical child support functions. It uses an administrative (non-judicial) process to:
- establish paternity of children born to unmarried couples
- locate parents who've disappeared
- establish and modify child and medical support obligations
- collect and disburse child support through the Michigan State Disbursement Unit (MiSDU), and
- enforce child and medical support obligations.
OCS can apply enforcement measures when paying parents aren't meeting their child support obligations. However, in urgent or complicated cases, parents might find it's in their best interest to locate a private lawyer or legal aid attorney who can go to court and argue to a judge on their behalf. In some circumstances, this can be more effective than waiting for OCS to act.
What Happens If I Don't Pay Child Support as Ordered?
OCS has a powerful set of legal and financial tools to obtain payment from parents with past-due child support accounts (known as arrearages), including:
- All Michigan child support orders include a withholding provision, and OCS sends a withholding order to all employers who've hired paying parents. Employers must withhold funds for arrearages and pay them toMiSDU. Employers also have to report any new hires and provide wage information, so that OCS can track income sources and parents who move from job to job.
- OCS can collect money from unemployment and worker's compensation benefits that would otherwise go to the paying parent.
- OCS can intercept the paying parent's state and federal tax returns and apply them to any arrearages.
- OCS can file a legal action called a "contempt," which will require the paying parent to go to court and "show cause," or explain to a judge, why support hasn't been paid on time. Contempts are very serious. They can result in jail time, probation, or entry of a judgment that will damage the paying parent's credit score.
- OCS can set up liens on the houses, land, financial assets, and other property (like cars and boats) of parents who have arrearages. These parents won't be able to sell the property, use the financial assets, or transfer ownership until the liens are removed and the arrearages paid off. OCS also has the power to levy (take) any of this property outright.
- OCS can suspend, deny, or revoke the paying parent's driver's license, sporting licenses (including hunting and fishing licenses), and professional or occupational licenses and certificates if the parent falls more than 60 days behind in payments.
- OCS can report parents with arrearages to the consumer credit bureaus, which will damage those parents' credit ratings.
- OCS will refer cases where the paying parent has arrearages in excess of $2500 to the U.S. State Department, which will automatically deny, revoke, or restrict passports.
- OCS can ask a judge to add surcharges to child support cases that have arrearages.
- OCS can ask for a percentage of proceeds from certain pension plans to be withheld and paid to MiSDU.
- OCS can refer cases for state or federal criminal prosecution.
Michigan Compiled Laws
Michigan Courts: Self-Help Center
Michigan Legal Help (child support topics and legal aid for qualifying individuals)
Michigan Department of Human Services
Michigan Child Support Services