In Michigan, child support is considered the inherent right of the child, not of the parents. For this reason, child support is generally calculated according to the Michigan Child Support Formula and cannot be “bargained away.” The Formula takes into account many factors, such as each parent's income, the number of overnights each parent has with the child, any special needs of the child, health insurance premiums paid by either parent and child care expenses. Child support is typically paid until each child reaches the age of 18 or graduates from high school, whichever is later, but not beyond age of 19 1/2 years.
Child support calculations can become particularly complex when a parent attempts to hide or reduce their income in order to avoid paying support. In these cases, discovery is often necessary to prove a parent's true earning capacity. Child support calculations can also be complicated when a parent has other forms of income beyond a traditional W-2 wage. Bonuses, company perks and certain tax write-offs can be calculated as “income” available for child support.
It is quite common for parents to come to an agreement with respect to child support, just as they agree on the terms of custody and parenting time. However, since child support is the right of the child, these agreements are not permitted unless there is a valid reason to deviate from the Michigan Child Support Formula. The Court too may deviate from the Child Support Formula if application of the Formula would result in an unjust or inappropriate support amount. Examples of some exceptions that may support a deviation are found in the Michigan Child Support Formula Manual, section 1.04(E), and include:
- The child has special needs or extraordinary educational expenses
- A parent provides a substantial amount of a child's daytime care and directly contributes toward a significantly greater share of the child's costs than those reflected by the overnights used to calculate the offset for parental time
- A child in the custody of a third-party recipient spends a significant number of overnights with the payer that causes a significant savings in the third party's expenses
- A parent has a reduction in the income available to support a child due to extraordinary levels of jointly accumulated debt
The court awards property in lieu of support for the benefit of the child
- A parent is incarcerated with minimal or no income or assets
- A parent has incurred, or is likely to incur, extraordinary medical expenses for either that parent or a dependent
- A parent earns an income of a magnitude not fully taken into consideration by the formula
- A parent receives bonus income in varying amounts or at irregular intervals
- A parent provides substantially all the support for a stepchild, and the stepchild's parents earn no income and are unable to earn income
- A child earns an extraordinary income
- The court orders a parent to pay taxes, mortgage installments, home insurance premiums, telephone or utility bills, etc. before entry of a final judgment or order
- A parent makes payments to a bankruptcy plan or has debt discharged, when either significantly impacts the monies that parent has available to pay support
- Any other factor the court deems relevant to the best interests of a child
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The above list is not exhaustive, and just because one or more of these factors exists does not mean you are automatically entitled to such an exception. Rather, the Court will look at the exception(s) in light of all of the circumstances. Although based upon a formula, child support calculations and modifications are not necessarily straight forward. The family law attorneys at McGinnis Chiappelli, P.C. would encourage you to contact us to discuss your specific case. The INITIAL CONSULTATION IS FREE. We offer flexible appointment times, along with reasonable fees.