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Michigan child support, custody, visitation, and wage garnishment rules

Use this Michigan child support law to learn about your child support rights and responsibilites.

How is Michigan child support determined?

In Michigan, a child is entitled to support from his or her natural or adoptive parents. Support includes the payment of medical, dental, childcare and education expenses.

There are specific Michigan Child Support Guidelines, designed to be in the best interests of the child, that the courts use to determine the correct amount of child support. These will be followed unless both parents agree to an amount other than that calculated by the guidelines, or the courts decide the guidelines are unjust for that particular case.

In either case, the court must set forth in the writing the following:

  • the support amount determined by the application of the Michigan Child Support Guidelines' child support formula
  • how the support order entered by the court varies from the amount determined with the child support formula
  • the value of the property or other support awarded in lieu of the payment of support
  • the reasons the court found the application of the child support formula to be unjust (if applicable)

The Michigan Child Support Guidelines are generally based upon the needs of the child and the actual resources of each parent.

At what age does child support payments end?

Generally, the obligation ends when the child reaches 18 years of age or the child graduates from high school, whichever occurs later.

Michigan's custody guidelines:

Generally, the parents agree upon decisions about custody. If there is no agreement, then the courts will make these custody decisions. In Michigan, custody may be awarded to either parent, or both parents and is based on the best interest of the child as set forth by these elements:

  • the moral fitness of each parent
  • the needs of the child, including physical, emotional, mental, religious and social needs
  • the ability and desire of each parent to meet the child’s needs
  • the child’s preference, if the child is of sufficient age
  • the love, affection and emotional ties between the child and each parent
  • the length of time the child has lived in a stable and satisfactory environment the desire to maintain this
  • the ability and desire of each parent to promote an open, loving and frequent relationship between the child and the other parent
  • the child's adjustment to home, school and community settings
  • the mental and physical health of all involved
  • the permanence of the proposed custodial homes as it pertains to the family unit
  • any history or evidence of domestic abuse
  • any other relevant factors

If joint custody is a consideration, the courts will consider the above factors, as well as the following:

  • the cooperation of the parents in making joint decisions for the child
  • whether the parents agree on joint custody

If the parents agree to joint custody, the court will order joint custody unless, based on clear and convincing evidence, the court determines that joint custody is not in the best interest of the child. If joint custody is awarded, both parents share in the decision making process for the child's welfare.

Child support responsibilities remain, even if joint custody is awarded. Each parent continues to be responsible for the child support based on the needs of the child and the parent's resources. An award of joint custody, by itself, is not a ground for modification or the child support order.

Michigan's medical insurance guidelines:

Generally, the decision as to which parent is going to provide medical insurance coverage for the child and how medical bills will be paid is set out in the marital settlement agreement. However, if it has not been decided, the court may order health care, dental care and child care to be paid by one or both of the parents. Usually, if a reasonable medical insurance plan is available through one of the parent¹s employment, they are required to cover their child on it.

If a parent is self-employed and maintains health coverage, the court will require that the parent maintain dependent health care coverage for the benefit of the minor children and adult children, if available at a reasonable cost.

How permanent are the provisions for Michigan child support and custody ?

Court orders providing for support and custody of children are subject to change or modification to reflect significant changes in income, and/or living arrangements of the children.

While all orders concerning the children are modifiable in the future, it is not advisable to enter into an agreement based on the idea that it can always be changed or modified later.

Wage garnishment for child support payments:

Yes. Michigan, like most states, has a provision for withholding child support directly from the earnings of the parent who has been ordered to provide support. It is withheld much like income tax is withheld from earnings payments.

This way of paying and receiving child support is generally easier for both parties and considered a very dependable solution. The way it typically works is, once the support is withheld, it is then sent to the state agency authorized to receive and disburse payments. Once it has been verified that the support was paid, it is then sent to the parent designated to receive the support.

How does joint custody work?

The current trend is to encourage parents to work together for the best interests of their children. Joint custody is now widely recognized by parents, courts and state legislatures as the preferred parenting plan for divorcing parents.

Specifically, joint custody is a form of custody of minor children that requires both parents to share the responsibilities of the children, and for both parents to approve all major decisions related to the children.

While joint custody is a 50-50 sharing of responsibilities and major decisions affecting the children, it rarely works out to be a 50-50 sharing of time with the children. Usually one parent is named as the primary joint custodian and the other parent is granted parenting time. The primary joint custodian typically retains the decision making power to determine the child’s primary residence and school and to designate things such as the child’s primary physician.

How Michigan determines child visitation:

Generally, parents are free to visit with their children at all times that are mutually agreed to by both parents. However, when parents cannot agree, the standard visitation schedule accepted most everywhere in the nation is:

  • every other weekend
  • four to six (4-6) weeks during the summer
  • alternating holidays
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