The Friend of the Court (FOC) is required to automatically begin enforcement action against a parent ordered to pay support whose back support is in an amount equal to or greater than four weeks of support. This is to be done without waiting for a complaint or request for enforcement from the person receiving support. The state child support enforcement computer system (MiCSES) is designed to inform the FOC when payments are not made so action can be commenced. However, the system does not always do so properly, and information from the parent who is not receiving the court ordered support often speeds the results of the FOC enforcement efforts.
Support Enforcement Tools
The FOC has many tools available to enforce payment support accounts. These tools include:
• Income Withholding Orders.
An income withholding order requires the employer or other source of income of the person required to pay support to withhold support from his or her wages or other income in a manner similar to income tax withholding. All support orders issued in the State of Michigan are required to onclude an order of income withholding. All support orders must provide for immediate income withholding. A delinquency does not have occur before income withholding takes place, The support money is taken directly from a payer’s check in a way similar to deductions for income taxes and social security payments. This is not optional. It can be avoided only in certain very limited circumstances. The Court has some limited authority to delay immediate income withholding if the Court finds that it would not be in the best interest of the child (good cause exception).
• Interstate Income Withholding Orders.
If the payer lives out of state, and gets behind in making his or her support payments, the FOC may begin an interstate income withholding action. For a the FOC office to start an interstate income withholding action, it must have the following information:
- Name, address and social security number of payer.
- Name and address of payer's employer or other source of income.
• Warning Letter.
This is the first step in enforcement. This notice is sent to each party, and lets the payer know that the FOC is not receiving payments as ordered. It gives the payer thirty days to start or resume payments as ordered. If the payer continues to be behind in payments and other remedies do not work. the next action taken is a “Show Cause” Contempt Hearing.
• Show Cause Hearing.
If an order for income withholding does not work and the warning letter does not produce the desired results, the FOC will probably begin a civil contempt proceeding by filing a petition with the Court for an Order to Show Cause. Your court order requires you to keep the FOC advised of your current address. You can be fined if you do not do so. The notice of the show cause hearing will be sent to the last address that you have given (in writing) to the FOC. If you are the person ordered to pay support and you fail to notify the FOC of a new address (in writing), you can legally be arrested for non-appearance at a hearing even though notice was sent to an old address and you did not receive it. At that hearing, the payer of support has the right to be represented by an attorney. The Court will appoint one for payers who cannot afford to pay for their own attorney if there is the chance that they will be put in jail. The payer seeking an attorney will fill out an application for an appointed attorney just before the hearing and the Judge will decides if the payer qualifies for no-cost legal services. In the hearing, the FOC will give the Court a review of the case, and will tell the Court what it recommends. The Judge will decide if the payer is in contempt of the Court’s support order, and what action or consequence will occur next.
If the show cause hearing is scheduled and the payer does not appear, the judge will issue a bench warrant for the payer's arrest. Bond will be set at 25% of the support arrearage, or $500, whichever is greater. Once the court issues a bench warrant, the responsibility for the payer's arrest lies with the local law enforcement agencies.
• Bench Warrant.
When the Court issues a bench warrant, Michigan law enforcement agencies are notified, and the FOC Warrant officer begins his investigation to pursue the payer to place him or her under arrest. If the non-payer is stopped by law enforcement officials within Michigan for any civil or criminal infraction, these officials will place the non-payer under arrest for non-payment of support. NOTE: The issuance of a bench warrant does not mean that the FOC will not use other tools it has to try to collect the support. The FOC is persistent, and can attach assets, income tax returns, insurance settlements and even ask that criminal charges be filed.
• Felony non-support warrants.
These are initiated by the Cass County FOC through a referral to the Cass County Prosecutor's office or to the Michigan Attorney General’s office. After the referral is made, it is up to the Prosecutors to determine if there is sufficient evidence and cause for the issuance of the felony warrant. If a person is convicted of felony non-support, he or she will have a felony conviction on record that could have a major impact on other aspects of life. It is far easier to work with the FOC to come to a solution than it is to live with a felony conviction, but in large part, this is your choice to make.
• Tax Intercept.
If back child support is owed, the FOC may request an income tax offset. For cases that qualify under the Federal IV-D program. A “tax offset” is where any tax refund owed to a payer is sent to the FOC and applied to back child support. Any arrearage owned to the State of Michigan is paid by the intercepted funds until paid in full. The tax intercept program in initiated by the Accounting, not Enforcement Division. Submission of a case automatically occurs when the arrearages meet statutory criteria, without the person receiving support having to request review of the case for tax offset collection.
There are many other tools for enforcement that will be used to enforce payment of support including , driver’s and/or professional license revocation, passport revocation, credit reporting, and other remedies. For more information, contact the FOC Enforcement Division.