Parents of a child are expected to provide support and care for the child. Even when the parents are not together, this obligation still stands. If both parents fulfill their obligations, it will help the child have a better life. For this reason, child support laws exist to create a legal obligation for both parents to take care of their child, and not just abandon the child for just one parent or a third party.
Child Support Process After Divorce
Child support services in Michigan comes under the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). Single parents who have been put on public assistance at any point in time automatically have a child support case opened for them. However, parents who did not have a case opened for them or who have not received public assistance and wish to apply for child support can do so online at https://www.michigan.gov/michildsupport or can download and fill the IV-D Child Support Services Application/Referral – DHS-1201 form from https://www.michigan.gov/documents/DHS-1201_136519_7.pdf, then mail it in. Parents receiving public assistance will be required to assign their child support to the state to reimburse the cash assistance being paid to them.
In the application, the custodial parents fill in information about their noncustodial counterparts. This includes names, employer’s details, social security number, last known address, car make, and model, car registration details, assets, etc. A photograph may also be requested. These details are very valuable as they can be used in locating the parent. Until the other parent is located and served a notice, the case cannot proceed. Occasionally, the social media information of the other parent may come in handy as well.
If the parents were married when the child was born or when the mother became pregnant, the man is the child’s legal father. However, if the parents were not married, the paternity of the child will have to be established. Both parents can establish paternity by completing an Affidavit of Parentage, the father’s name can then be added to the birth certificate of the child. In a case where the paternity of the child is disputed, the local family court can be contacted to help establish paternity. This is done through DNA testing where samples are collected from the child and alleged father for analysis. This is a reliable test, and the results are accepted as decisive. For more information on how to establish paternity, visit https://www.michigan.gov/mdhhs/0,5885,7-339-73971_5528_61204_41278—,00.html.
After establishing paternity, MDHHS can then decide on how much should be paid as child support.
How Do You Receive Child Support?
Child support payments are handled by the Michigan State Disbursement Unit (MiSDU). The payments are received from the noncustodial parent, processed, and then sent to the custodial parent. If the custodial parent receives public assistance, the payments are sent to the state.
Parents can receive their child support payments into their savings or checking accounts, or they can receive the payments on a debit card account. The first child support payment is mailed as a paper check. Enclosed with this check is a Direct Deposit Request Form which must be filled by parents who want their child support payments to be made into their bank accounts. If the form is not returned, the parents are automatically issued a Way2Go Prepaid Mastercard debit card. This card is issued by Comerica Bank and the funds are loaded onto it once they are due and have been received from the noncustodial parent.
Exceptions are made for parents who would experience hardship receiving their funds electronically. This includes individuals with a mental or physical disability, language barriers, or those living more than 3 miles from an ATM or their bank. In such cases, they will continue to receive their checks in the mail.
If a parent wishes to change their mode of receiving payments, they can visit http://www.misdu.com/ and fill the relevant form.
Amount Receivable as Child Support
Michigan has child support guidelines that are used to determine just how much should be paid as child support. These guidelines consider the income of the parents (including inheritance), the assets of the parents, medical insurance and healthcare obligations, the time spent with each parent (in cases of shared custody), the beneficiaries of each parent, the health status of the parents, etc. These considerations are important in determining a fair amount to be paid as support. This helps balance payments in such a way that the parent paying is not made to go through hardships because of the obligations. The guidelines can be found at https://courts.michigan.gov/Administration/SCAO/Resources/Documents/Publications/Manuals/focb/2021MCSF.pdf#page=1.
The state also maintains a child support calculator at https://micase.state.mi.us/calculatorapp/public/welcome/load.html. This calculator gives an estimate of what the parent may be expected to pay as child support. The results are not final and do not constitute a child support order. However, providing as many details as possible can help get a figure reasonably close to what may be ordered as support.
Enforcement of Child Support
In Michigan, the Friend of the Court is in charge of enforcing child support orders. Parents who fail to meet up with their child support obligations and do not have proper documentation or permission for their defaulting will have enforcement actions taken against them. These actions include:
Income withholding, in which case the support is deducted directly from the wages of the parent. Income withholding can be used to collect current and outstanding child support,
Intercepting tax refunds once the arrearages exceed certain thresholds,
Suspending various licenses,
Denying passport applications,
Making reports to credit agencies,
In extreme cases, court action can be taken and may result in jail time for the parent.
More details on enforcement of child support in Michigan can be found at https://www.michigan.gov/mdhhs/0,5885,7-339-73971_5528_61204_29251—,00.html.