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.
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.
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 (2023).)
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.
Under the Michigan child support guidelines, the total amount of child support consists of three parts:
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.
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 (see § 2.03 in the Michigan Child Support Formula Supplement) 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 2023), 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 2023), the judge may order a support level that financially benefits the child.
For purposes of calculating child support in Michigan, income includes:
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.
To arrive at the net income in Michigan, the child support calculator subtracts the following from the total gross income:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
Any order that deviates from the formula must include:
Parents may also agree to amounts that differ from the formula, but a judge must approve their agreement.
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 (2023).)
Child support recipients also receive the payments electronicially through MiSDU, either by direct deposit or a debit card.
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:
In some situations, a judge may add a surcharge to past-due support payments. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 552.603a (2023).)
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.
You have a right to request a review of your child support order once every 36 months. (And if either parent receives public assistance, the FOC automatically reviews the order every 36 months.)
When it has been less than 36 months since the order was last reviewed, either parent may file a motion to modify (change) the order. The request can go through the FOC or the court. The FOC request will take longer, but it will be free. Going directly to the court will cost up to $60 but will be faster.
Upon receiving the request to modify (either directly or from the FOC), the judge will modify the existing child support if there are reasonable grounds to do so. Reasonable grounds include:
If the judge finds that changes are appropriate, the modified order will be issued within 180 days. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 552.517 (2023).)
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.
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.