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Calculating Child Support In Michigan

In most situations, child support is calculated based on a percentage of the non-custodial parent’s income. However, Michigan and the Grand Rapids area have some rules that should be evaluated before a custody hearing or a judge issues an order for support.

The Text Of The Child Support Guidelines

The state government provides official guidelines for determining child support. They are published on the Michigan courts website. The rationale behind support payments is that they will provide for certain general needs such as food, education, and healthcare. The support obligation is usually a combination of expenses for general care, medical care, and daycare or babysitting. The parent who receives the support payments also has an obligation to contribute to these same needs.

What Does The State Define As “Income,” And How Much Of It Is Subject To A Support Order?

Generally, all wages, tips, bonuses, money earned through self employment, appreciation of investments, and government payments will all count as income based on the state rules for child support. This is a broad definition that is meant to include all possible sources of money that a parent may obtain. The court also has authority to examine a number of different types of documents to determine a person’s income. People who have seasonal or variable income will have their earnings from the previous year used as a basis for support obligations. In almost all cases, a child’s personal income will not be used as a way to reduce these obligations. There are some deductions allowed based on existing alimony payments or medicare taxes. A separate formula may also be used to make deductions from the amount owed based on additional obligations to other children.

The equation that is used to determine the support amount is essentially a way of subtracting out the child’s base support level and general care needs from monthly income. This ensures that necessities discussed earlier such as healthcare and education are covered but they do not exceed the earnings of the parents. This specific formula is provided in the guidelines. There are also exceptions to the general rules for those with abnormally high or low incomes.

The Time Offset

Even parents who are obligated to pay child support are entitled to receive a certain amount of custody. The amount of time and overnight visits a parent has with their child can affect the total support amount owed. This is done to ensure that a parent is not essentially paying double for the children’s expenses to another parent, because they will absorb most of the child’s financial needs while receiving custody. These timeframes can also change regularly, which is why courts can modify these amounts based on changes in the duration of custody.

Modifications To A Child Support Order

To modify child support, the state allows a parent to rebut the information given in the guidelines with additional facts that are unique to their situation. In other words, the guidelines will function as the default set of rules unless a parent can make a case for deviating from them. Cases in Michigan have stated that the courts can alter a child support amount to prevent an unjust result, which gives judges a certain level of discretion.

Some of these factors that allow for deviation from the guidelines include:

  • Special medical needs
  • Additional expenses for education
  • A parent who has not yet reached adulthood
  • Debt between the parents that will not allow for normal support levels
  • Property is given as a substitute for income
  • The child has their own exceptional source of income
  • A person other than one of the parents is capable and willing to provide healthcare and support
  • A parent is already subject to an order to pay restitution or past due support obligations
  • Other factors that the court views as necessary

Making Sense Of All Of This Information

While this is a lot of information to absorb, an experienced attorney who deals with child support and custody issues can provide specific information based on your income levels and personal situation. It is better to be prepared before a custody hearing or any financial determinations are made by a court than to be surprised at a later time and have to struggle financially. Your attorney can help you figure out any potential obligations and how to present proof of all of your sources of income. It is also important that this is done correctly, as there can be sanctions for not following the guidelines or hiding sources of income from the courts.

Get Help In The Grand Rapids Area Today

For more information about determining child support amounts in Michigan or Grand Rapids, contact the family law attorneys at Gordon & Hess, PLC. We can provide advice that will help you navigate the local courts. Call 616-369-7452 to schedule an appointment.