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UNDERSTANDING CHILD SUPPORT: A HANDBOOK FOR PARENTS BY MDHHS
This page contains information about questions often asked to the FOC:
• Overview of Child Support;
• Child Support Basics;
• How to Make Child Support Payments;
• How to Access Information about Child Support Payments;
• Retroactive Changes in Child Support Payments;
• Common Questions about Child Support
Please be aware that child support obligations for each child will end on the last day of the month that the child turns 18 years of age.
If your child will be attending high school on a full-time basis after turning 18 years of age, it is the parents' responsibility to notify the Friend of the Court and provide verification of your child's full-time enrollment in high school so that child support can continue beyond your child's 18th birthday (except that in no case will child support extend beyond the time the child reaches 19 1/2 years of age).
A FORM is available from the FOC Office to request an extension of child support beyond your child's 18th birthday.
Overview of Child Support
A “support order” is any order entered by the Circuit Court that requires the payment of support. Support may include:
• child support;
• spousal support;
• payment of expenses of medical, dental and other healthcare expenses;
• childcare expenses; and
• educational expenses.
In 1975 the U.S. Congress established the IV-D ( "4 D")child support program to coordinate the services and benefits available to families with dependant children. The program includes enforcement tools such as income withholding, income tax refund interception, federal parent locator services, and other remedies. Any person with custody of a child who needs help to establish a child support or medical support order, any parent who already has a support order who needs help to collect support payments, or any non-custodial parent can apply for IV-D child support. If you are receiving public assistance from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), or Medicaid or federally assisted Foster Care programs, you have been automatically referred to the Michigan Department of Humand Services (DHS) for services. You may also obtain forms to apply for IV-D services from the FOC or the DHS in the county in which you live. In addition to the establishment of a child support order, the IV-D system can provide assistance with support enforcement, reviews and modifications, paternity establishment, absent parent locating, and monitoring of support payments.
Child Support Basics
In Cass County cases, child support is charged on the first (1st) day of the month following the entry of the support order if it is entered before the 15th day. If it is entered after the 15th day it will begin the 1st day of the following month, and in some instances, begins on the first (1st) day of the month a petition was filed with the Court.
If you are a payer of support, you must immediately inform the FOC of any change in:
• the name and address of your employer, and
• your employment that will effect payment of your child support (e.g. mergers, plant shutdowns, relocations, lay-off, etc.)
Making Support Payments
Unless otherwise ordered by the court, the Michigan State Disbursement Unit (MISDU) has the responsibility to collect and forward child and spousal support to the payee. State law requires MiSDU to receive, record and send out all support payments due, current and past due not less than once each month. Once a year, upon a written request, the FOC will provide parties with a statement of the support account free of charge. Payments for support may be made by personal check, money order, income withholding and mailed to:
Michigan State Disbursement Unit
P.O . Box 30351
Lansing MI 48909-7851
THE FOC OFFICE WILL ONLY TAKE PAYMENTS IN CASH OR BY CERTIFIED CHECK!
CASH SHOULD NOT BE MAILED.
YOU CAN MAKE PAYMENTS BY CREDIT CARD
BY PUSHING THE BUTTON "CLICK HERE TO PAY NOW" ABOVE!
Accessing Information About Payments
You can access information about your child support account, payments received, arrearage, etc., 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by dialing 1-877-543-2660. The Cass County code is 227, which is the first three letters of the county (CAS).
Click this link MISDU to obtain information and forms for:
• Changing your address
• Printing a temporary payment coupon
• Changing your PIN Number
• Direct deposit of support payments
• Making an online support payment
• Rules about distribution and allocation of support when a payer has multiple cases
To obtain yearly statements or print outs, please send a written request to:
Cass County Friend of the Court
Attn: Account Clerk
60296 M-62, Room 3
Cassopolis, MI 49031
or by sending an e-mail to the attention of the Account Clerk at FOC@cassco.org.
Click this link for information on Electronic Distribution of Child Support
Retroactive Changes in Support
Child support usually cannot be modified retroactively. MCL 552.603. If you lose your job but wait several months before seeking modification of your child support order, you will still be liable for the child support amount ordered until the day a motion to change support is filed. While it could take weeks for the FOC to make a recommendation about new amount of child support, a new support obligation will be retroactive to the day a motion to modify support was filed with the Court.
If you do not contact the FOC when your income changes, you could regret it later. It could cost you a lot of money that you would not have been responsible for if you had done so. A limited exception to the rule against retroactive modification of support is found in the statute that prohibits retroactive modification.
This law means that if a person does not tell FOC of a change in his or her income though he or she knows of the requirement to do so, or lies about his or her income, the support amount can be changed back to what it should be have been if the change had been reported. If the requirement for notice is in the support order, then the Court will find that the person knew or should have known about the requirement to notify the FOC of an income change. Not allowing retroactive modification in this situation would be rewarding something done in contempt of the order of the Court.
Child Support Questions and Answers
Q. How do I get an order for support?
A. A petition requesting the court to grant an order for support must be filed with the court. If both parties agree and sign an agreement (stipulation), that agreement will be entered as a support order if the court approves it. If the agreement differs from the amount recommended under the Michigan Child Support Formula, however, certain additional requirements must be met.
Q. Do I need to have an attorney to get an order for support?
A. It is not required that you have an attorney to file a petition for support in a divorce action. However, an attorney may be helpful when filing papers and following specific rules if you are not familiar with court procedures. For paternity and family support actions, the Prosecuting Attorney can assist you with the filing of a petition for support.
Q. Does the judge have to use the Child Support Formula or the FOC recommendations when setting support orders?
A. Yes. The Child Support Formula is used to assist the judge in making a decision concerning support amounts. The law requires support to be set according to the formula recommended amount under the formula, unless there is clear evidence that the formula amount is unjust or otherwise harms the best interests of the child. The Court must record the reasons for not following the formula if it orders support different from the amount recommended.
Q. If I have been paying my child support and the custodial parent is not allowing parenting time, do I have to keep paying support?
A. Yes, parenting time and support are separate orders of the court, with separate enforcement procedures. Violation of one order does not permit violation of other orders.
Q. The non-custodial parent is not paying support. What can I do?
A. Contact the FOC and request enforcement if the back support equals payments of four weeks or more. You may also contact an private attorney to file an enforcement action.
Q. The payer of support is self-employed and is not making his or her court ordered support payments. What can the FOC do?
A. Income withholding orders are not usually effective when a payer is self-employed. In these cases, the FOC may seek enforcement using one or more of the following options:
• Issue a warning letter to the payer of support
• Petitioning the court for a show cause hearing.
• Submitting the payer's name for tax intercept.
• Filing a lien on the payer's property.
• Revocation of driver’s, professional, and/or recreational licenses
• Revocation of passport.
Contact your FOC office for further information concerning these options.
Q. My court order states that I am to pay support through the Michigan State Disbursal Unit (MISDU) office. Can I pay the support to the custodial parent directly?
A. Not without having your court order changed. Support is paid through MISDU so that an official record of payments exists. If you want credit for payments made directly to the custodial parent, you must obtain a court order that directs the FOC to credit your account for a specific amount. If any support is paid directly to the other parent and not through MiSDU as ordered, it will be considered a gift and credit will not be given against your support account.
Q. If child support has been ordered by the court and either parent has a major increase or decrease in income, what can be done?
A. The Child Support Formula requires the FOC to consider both parent's income when making child support recommendations. If either party has had a large increase or decrease in income, they should to contact the FOC to request a review of the support order (see Support Modification Section), or forms to assist you in seeking a change. If you and the payee can mutually agree to a change in your support order, and you sign a written agreement (stipulation), that agreement will be entered as an order, if approved by the court. If the agreement deviates from the amount recommended under the Michigan Child Support Formula, however, certain additional requirements must be met. In most instances parents are required by their order to report changes in income.
Q. If I am receiving public assistance do I still get child support?
A. No. Under current law, all child support payments paid while you are receiving public assistance must be sent by the FOC or MiSDU to the DHS. However, if the payer is making payments, you may be entitled to receive from the DHS up to the first $50.00 of any child support paid each month. If you have questions about this program, contact your local DHS office.
Q. Is the FOC responsible for making sure that child support money is being spent on the child?
A. No. Current law does not give the FOC the right to question how child support payments are spent.