Child Support in Michigan

Learn how child support is calculated in Michigan, as well as how to enforce or change your current child support order.

By , Attorney · UC Berkeley School of Law
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Michigan (like all states) has child support guidelines for calculating the amount of support that divorced or unmarried parents should pay for the benefit of their kids. The guidelines themselves are fairly straightforward—they base the amount of support on the parents' net income and the amount of time each of them spends with the child. But the rules can get complicated once you get into the details of the calculations.

Here's what you need to know to get started figuring out how much child support you might pay, along with information about how to modify and enforce child support orders in Michigan.

Who Pays Child Support in Michigan?

Although a Michigan judge may order either or both parents to support a child, most of the time it's the "noncustodial parent" (the one with the least amount of time with the child) who pays child support. But that doesn't mean the other parent is off the hook for the costs of raising a child. The law assumes that custodial parents provide child support by directly spending money on the kids' needs.

How Long Do Parents Have to Pay Child Support in Michigan?

Under Michigan's divorce and family laws, both parents have a duty to support their child until the child reaches age 18. Michigan judges have the power to extend child support past age 18 if the child is regularly attending high school on a full-time basis and seems likely to graduate. Even when the child is still in high school, though, a judge may not order a parent to pay child support after the child turns age 19 and 6 months. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 552.605b (2024).)

Parents may always agree between themselves to pay support past the age when the court-ordered support ends. For instance, some parents agree to contribute to the costs of the child's college education.

How Child Support Is Calculated Under the Michigan Child Support Guidelines

Under the Michigan child support guidelines, the total amount of child support consists of three parts:

  • a base child support obligation (derived from both parents' net income) that's adjusted for the amount of time the child spends with each parent
  • health care and insurance expenses, and
  • child care expenses.

You can find the most current version of the guidelines and supplements on the Michigan Courts Child Support Formula webpage. Also, you can estimate what you might pay by using the Michigan Department of Health and Human Service's online MiChildSupport Calculator. To use the calculator, you'll need to know both parents' net income and the parenting time each has with the child. "Net income" equals all income (the "gross income") minus deductions and adjustments allowed by the child support guidelines.

Calculating the Base Support Obligation

The first step in calculating child support in Michigan is to establish both parents' net incomes. The guidelines use what's called the "General Care Equation" to calculate the parties' base support obligation—an amount that takes into account the parents' net incomes and the number of children that will be supported. You can look at the state's General Care Support Table (found in the supplement to the Child Support Formula manual) for an approximation of what your support obligation might be.

Special adjustments are made to the formula for low-income parents to make sure they have enough money to meet their own basic needs after paying child support. When a parent's net monthly income doesn't meet the lowest level in the General Care Support Table ($1,318 per month as of 2024), the parent's base support obligation will be 10% of the parent's income.

The formula may also be adjusted for extremely high-income parents. When a parent's net monthly income greatly exceeds the highest level ($10,581 as of 2024), the judge may order a support level that financially benefits the child.

What's Considered Income for Purposes of Child Support in Michigan?

For purposes of calculating child support in Michigan, income includes:

  • wages, overtime pay, commissions, and bonuses
  • business and self-employment income
  • distributed profits or payments from profit-sharing, a pension or retirement accounts, an insurance contract, an annuity, trust fund, deferred compensation, social security, unemployment compensation, supplemental unemployment benefits, disability insurance or benefits, or worker's compensation
  • military pay
  • perks and noncash benefits for which the parent didn't pay (such as housing, meals, and room and board)
  • tips, gratuities, royalties, interest, dividends, fees, or gambling or lottery winnings, and
  • net capital gains.

(Mich. Comp. Laws § 552.602(o) (2024))

Most of the time, income does not include an inheritance or one-time gift. However, the interest and potential interest earned on inherited property and gifts may be considered income.

When parents are voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, Michigan judges can impute (attribute) income to them based on what they could be earning. The judge will consider factors such as prior employment history, educational level, and availability for work.

What's Not Included in Income for Purposes of Child Support in Michigan?

To arrive at the net income in Michigan, the child support calculator subtracts the following from the total gross income:

  • alimony (spousal support) being paid to someone other than the other parent in the current case (such as to an ex from a previous marriage)
  • federal and state income taxes
  • payments required by employment (such as union dues and nondiscretionary retirement contributions)
  • life insurance policy premiums when the child for whom support is being calculated is the beneficiary
  • costs of complying with orders in child protective or juvenile delinquency proceedings
  • the parent's net actual cost of providing health care coverage for themselves, and
  • employer reimbursements for travel, tuition, educational costs, and uniforms.

If a parent has other minor children to support, the net income for calculating support doesn't include a portion of the money paid for supporting those children. If the parent is paying health insurance premiums for those other children, this amount is also deducted from income.

Alimony that one parent receives from the other (in the current case) is not included in the recipient's income, nor is it deducted from the paying spouse's income. (Mich. Child Support Formula Manual, § 2.07 (2024).)

Adjustment for Parenting Time

Once each parent's base support amount is calculated, the guidelines apply a formula to adjust support based on the custody arrangement—how much time each parent spends with the child. The formula considers the fact that when one parent has an overnight with the child, the other parent isn't having to spend as much for food, utilities, and other resources to care for the child.

Calculating Support Obligations for Medical Expenses and Insurance

Medical care support includes treatments, services, equipment, medicines, preventive care, and similar goods and services associated with oral, visual, psychological, medical, and other related care that is provided or prescribed by health care professionals. The total medical care support is divided into two categories:

  • Ordinary medical expenses. The guidelines assume that parents spend a certain amount for each child's ordinary medical expenses (shown in a table called "Ordinary Medical Expense Averages," which is found in the Child Support Formula Supplement). The judge may add predictable expenses (such as orthodontia or a child's special medical needs) to the suggested amount listed in the table. After establishing the annual amount for medical expenses, each parent will be assigned a percentage share of the expense.
  • Extraordinary medical expenses. When unexpected medical expenses happen, the parents must pay the same percentage of the costs as they do for ordinary expenses.

The amount for ordinary medical expenses restarts every calendar year and remains in effect until the judge orders a change.

Michigan judges must also order one of the parents to pay for health insurance coverage for the child. The cost of the insurance must be reasonable. Under Michigan law, "reasonable" health insurance coverage is a policy that costs less than 6% of the providing parent's gross income. However, the amount becomes unreasonable if the parent's total obligation for child support is more than 50% of the parent's regular disposable earnings. The judge may allocate the expense of insurance premiums between the parents in proportion to each parent's percentage share of family income.

Calculating Support Obligations for Child Care Expenses

Michigan judges will order parents to share in the costs of child care that allow a parent to keep a job, look for employment, or attend an educational program to improve employment opportunities.

The costs are allocated between the parents based on each parent's share of family income, and the amount is added to the monthly base support amount. Judges presume that child care costs are necessary until August 31 following the child's 12th birthday, but they may extend the order for child care support if necessary for a child's health or safety.

When Child Support May Be Higher or Lower Than the Guideline Amount

Michigan judges may order an amount of child support that's different from the guideline amount if the results of the formula would be "unjust or inappropriate." For example, adhering to the formula might be unjust or inappropriate when:

  • the child has special needs
  • the parent is a minor
  • the judge awards property instead of support payments
  • a parent receives bonus income in varying amounts or at irregular intervals, or
  • the child earns an extraordinary income.

Any order that deviates from the formula must include:

  • the child support amount that was determined under the formula
  • how the child support order deviates from the formula
  • the value of property or other support awarded instead of child support payments (if applicable), and
  • the reasons why using the formula would be unjust or inappropriate.

(Mich. Comp. Laws § 552.605 (2024).)

Parents may also agree to amounts that differ from the formula, but a judge must approve their agreement.

Paying and Receiving Child Support in Michigan

The Michigan State Disbursement Unit (MiSDU) is responsible for receiving and disbursing child support payments. The paying parent must send their child support payments directly to the MiSDU by electronic means. Payments are made monthly and are payable on the first of each month in advance. The support order might require that the payments be made through wage withholding. When that's the case, the paying parent's employer might make the payments directly to MiSDU. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 552.605c (2024).)

Child support recipients also receive the payments electronicially through MiSDU, either by direct deposit or a debit card.

Enforcing a Child Support Order in Michigan

If you need help enforcing a child support order, you'll need to contact the Friend of the Court office, which is a part of the circuit court family division. The Friend of the Court (FOC) administers child support enforcement actions.

The FOC must begin an enforcement action when the paying parent is more than one month past due. Enforcement of the support order will begin right away. The FOC may collect support through any of the following methods:

  • withholding income
  • starting a contempt of court case
  • intercepting income tax returns
  • denying or suspending the delinquent parent's passport
  • suspending the delinquent parent's driver's, professional, or recreational licenses
  • placing liens on real and personal property, and
  • informing credit agencies of the delinquency.

In some situations, a judge may add a surcharge to past-due support payments. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 552.603a (2024).)

When a parent is extremely delinquent (owing at least $10,000), the Child Support Division of the Michigan Attorney General might get involved and prosecute the parent for nonpayment.

Changing the Amount of Child Support in Michigan

You have a right to request a review of your child support order once every 36 months. (If either parent receives public assistance, the FOC will generally review the order every 36 months automatically.)

Even if it has been less than three years since the last review (or since the existing order was issued), you may request a review if there's been a substantial change in circumstances. Also, the FOC may conduct a review (regardless of how long it's been) if there are reasonable grounds to believe that child support (or dependent health care coverage) should be changed. Reasonable grounds include:

  • temporary or permanent changes in the child's physical custody that a judge didn't order
  • the child's increased or decreased needs
  • changes in availability or cost of health care coverage
  • either parent's changed financial conditions, including application for or receipt of public assistance, unemployment compensation, or worker's compensation, or
  • the fact that the previous order was based on incorrect information.

When the review shows that a change in child support is necessary under the guidelines, the FOC will file a petition for a modification with the court unless:

  • the difference between the existing amount of child support and the new, projected amount is less than the minimum threshold for a modification under the guidelines (currently 10% or $50 a month, whichever is greater), or
  • the existing child support order deviated from the guideline amount, and the reasons for the judge's finding that applying the guideline would be injust or inappropriate haven't changed.

Either parent has the right to object (within 21 days) to the FOC's recommendation for a new amount of child support or its conclusion that no change is needed. When a parent objects, there will be a court hearing on the issue, unless the parents and the FOC can resolve the dispute at a joint meeting.

Parents may also file a modification motion with the court on their own. But if you decide to go this route, you'll need to prove that there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the existing child support order was issued. You'll also need to pay up to $60 in filing fees.

(Mich. Comp. Laws §§ 552.517, 552.517b (2024).)

Parents may also work out an agreement to modify the child support order, but they'll need to submit the proposed new order to the court for approval.

Remarriage and Child Support in Michigan

Either parent's remarriage won't, by itself, warrant a change in child support. A new mate's income is not included in the definition of income for purposes of calculating child support.

However, if a parent is supporting another child or children with the new spouse (or unmarried partner), Michigan's guidelines allow an adjustment to that parent's net income. That adjustment might warrant a change in the existing amount of child support under the rules (discussed above) for reviewing and modifying support. (Mich. Child Support Formula Manual, § 2.08 (2024).)

Getting Help With Child Support

Child support will be handled as part of your divorce if you're married to your child's other parent. If the two of you can agree on all of the issues in your divorce, including child support, you can save time and money by filing for an uncontested divorce. And if you want help with the uncontested divorce filing process, you can file for divorce online. A reputable online divorce service should calculate child support for you, based on Michigan's guidelines and your answers to a questionnaire; check with providers ahead of time to make sure this is included in the service.

Be aware that if you and your spouse can't agree on child support (or any other issue in your divorce), you should strongly consider speaking with a family law attorney who can guide you through the complex legal procedures involved in a contested divorce.

If you were never married to your child's other parent, you can apply for services with MiChildSupport.

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