Child Support

Support Orders
A support order is any order entered by the family division which requires the payment of support.

Support may include:

  • Child support  
  • Spousal support
  • Payment of confinement expenses  (these are the mother’s costs related to the birth)  
  • Payment of child care expenses
  • Payment of educational expenses
  • Payment of medical, dental, and other health care
  • Payment of educational expenses
All support orders must be stated in a monthly amount which is due on the first day of the month.  When an order takes affect on a day other than the first day of a month, or ends on a day other than the last day of the month, the support amount must be prorated for the partial month.  Support is past due if it is not paid by the last day of the month in which it became due.  

Support Investigations and Reports
The Friend of the Court is required to periodically review an order’s child support provisions, including health care.  The Friend of the Court will ask the court to modify the order if a change is warranted (see Modification of a Support Order).  As part of this periodic support review, the Friend of the Court may request information from a parent’s employer.  That includes things like the parent’s address, social security number, date of birth, earnings, and the details of any dependent health care coverage that is available as a benefit of employment.  If a court so directs, the Friend of the Court will, in addition to the periodic reviews summarized above,  evaluate the current order’s support provisions and submit a written report and recommendation to the parents (or their attorneys)  and the judge. 
Child Support Formula
Michigan law requires a standard child support formula to be used to determine how much child support a parent must pay.  That standard formula considers the parents’ incomes, how many children they have, and other factors.  The court may set a support amount that differs from the formula number, but only if the judge explains in writing or during a court hearing why the formula number is “unjust or inappropriate”. 

More information is available on the Michigan Supreme Court website.
Support  Payments
Unless otherwise ordered, support is paid through the Friend of the Court or the State Disbursement Unit (SDU).  Payments may be mailed to Michigan SDU, P.O. Box 30351, Lansing, MI 48909. 

When support received by the SDU sufficiently identifies to whom the support should be paid, it must be forwarded to the recipient within two business days of receipt.

Support is normally paid through income withholding.  If you are paying directly, please include your case number at the time of payment.  Do not send cash through the mail.

Once a year, upon written request, the Friend of the Court will provide parties with a free statement of their account.

♥ Related Form: Direct Deposit Authorization Form
Statutory Service Fees
Michigan law requires the Friend of the Court to charge the payer of support a fee for all child support cases.  The current fee is $42  per year.
Surcharge on Overdue Support
Surcharges are added on January 1 and July 1 each year.  The surcharge equals the average interest rate on money judgments, plus one percent.  If the support payer has paid 90 percent or more of the support that was due in the previous six months, no  surcharge will be assessed.  The court can also order that no surcharge be assessed, but a motion must be filed first.
Automatic Support Enforcement
When support payments are more than one month past due, the Friend of the Court must begin enforcement action without waiting for a request for enforcement.
Enforcement Methods
The Friend of the Court has several methods of collecting past due support.  They include:

  • Immediate Income  Withholding
The Friend of the Court can require the support payer’s employer (or other income source) to withhold some of the support payer’s income and send the money to the MiSDU.  The payer will be notified when the income withholding is issued.  The payer has a right to challenge the income withholding at an administrative hearing.  Also, the Friend of the Court can administratively adjust (usually by increasing) the income withholding, but the Friend of the Court office must first send the payer a notice of arrearage. 

The payer can object to the adjustment after receiving the notice of arrearage.

Most support orders entered or changed after December 31, 1990, must provide for income withholding even without a showing that the support payer has missed payments or is likely to do so.  A judge who does not want to require income withholding must find “good cause” for departing from the general rule.  Good cause exists when all of the following exist:


          Δ The court makes a specific written finding that income withholding is not  in the best interests of the child.
          Δ All previously ordered support has been paid on time.
          Δ The payer agrees to keep the Friend of the Court informed of the name, address, and telephone number of his/her current source of income, and about any health care coverage offered by the payer’s employer or coverage that the payer purchases  directly from a health insurer.
          Δ OR; Both parties and the court agree that income withholding will not take effect immediately because a satisfactory alternative payment arrangement has been made.  Even in this situation, the payer must keep the Friend of the Court informed of the name, address, and telephone number of his/her current source of income, and about any health care coverage offered by the payer’s employer or coverage that the payer purchases directly from a health insurer.

  • Contempt of Court (Show Cause) Hearing

If support is not paid on time, the Friend of the Court or a party may begin a contempt action against the payer.  The court will order the payer to appear in court and “show cause” why the court should not find the payer “in contempt of court.”

Enforcement Officers present cases scheduled for enforcement before a staff attorney or judge.  The Friend of the Court does not  directly represent either party in such a proceeding.  The Enforcement Officer presents information from Friend of the Court records and may make a recommendation at the hearing.  If an agreement is reached, the staff attorney will prepare an order by consent.  If the parties are unable to agree, the judge will make the actual decision as to the disposition.  The Court may issue a bench warrant for parties that fail to appear at court ordered hearings and for failure to comply with prior show cause orders.

  •  Income Tax Intercept

If child support is overdue and the case otherwise satisfies certain statutory requirements, the Friend of the Court must request an income tax “intercept.”  In such cases, any tax refund to which the support payer is entitled will be paid to the Friend of the Court, which will apply the money to pay past due support.

  •  Other Enforcement Remedies

If the payer is more than two months behind on the support payments, the Friend of the Court must report the arrearage to a  consumer credit reporting agency and the court may suspend the payer’s driving, occupational, sporting, or recreational licenses.  Also, the Friend of the Court may place a lien on the payer’s real and personal property, which then can be sold to pay the support arrearage. 

  •  Criminal Nonpayment of Support

Under federal and Michigan law, failing to pay child support may be a felony criminal offense.  The Friend of the Court does not have the authority to bring felony charges.  Charges based on Michigan law are filed and prosecuted by county prosecutors or the Attorney General.  Federal charges are filed and prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s office.

  •  Health Care Enforcement

The court may order one or both parents to provide health insurance coverage for the children.  If the court orders a parent to obtain available health insurance coverage from an employer and the parent fails to do so, the Friend of the Court will send a medical support notice to the parent’s employer.  The employer then must enroll the employee’s children in the employer’s plan and deduct the premiums from the employee’s wages.

Some health care expenses are not covered by typical health care plans.  Therefore, the court’s support order also will require each parent to pay a percentage of those “noncovered expenses.”  As of October 1, 2004, some support orders will require that some of the noncovered health care expenses be included with the child support payment and paid in advance.  These noncovered expenses are often referred to as “ordinary health care expenses.”  Ordinary health care expenses include things such as co-payments, deductibles and over-the-counter expenses.  The Friend of the Court will help collect the other parent’s share of those noncovered medical expenses if the following four conditions are satisfied.

          Δ The amount  exceeds the yearly annual ordinary amount in the order or the requesting parent  is the support payer.
          Δ One parent requested payment from the other parent within 28 days after  receiving an  insurer’s determination that an expense was not covered.
          Δ The other parent did not pay within 28 days after the request for payment  was made.
          Δ The Friend of the Court’s assistance is requested within one year after  incurring the expense, or within six months after the insurer has denied  coverage, or within six months after the other parent failed to pay as required.

If the Friend of the Court receives a parent’s request that meets those four requirements, the Friend of the Court will notify the other parent that, if no objection is filed within 21 days, the unpaid amount will become a support arrearage and subject to any of the enforcement processes summarized earlier.  If an objection is filed, the Friend of the Court must schedule a court hearing to decide who is responsible for the amount that the health insurer did not pay.

♥ Related Form: Request for Healthcare Expense Payment
♥ Related Form: Complaint and Notice for Healthcare Expense Payment  
Modification of a Support Order
The Friend of the Court will review child support orders automatically once every 36 months if the child or one of the parents is receiving public assistance.  In other cases, the Friend of the Court will conduct a review on written request by a party, but not more often than once every 36 months.  If you need an immediate change in the support amount because of a change in your income or the other parent’s income, you should file a court motion requesting the change.  Simply notifying the Friend of the Court that one parent’s financial situation has changed cannot automatically change the ordered support amount.

Threshold for Modification of the Support Order
The Friend of the Court will ask the court to change the required monthly support payment if the difference between the current support amount and the amount determined by the standard child support formula (using the parties’ most recent income data) is at least 10 percent or $25.00 per month, whichever is less.  If the difference between the current support amount and the current  formula amount is less than that minimum threshold, the Friend of the Court is not required to request a change.
Party’s Motion to Modify the Support Order
A party may file a motion to change the support order.  The office of the Friend of the Court will provide forms and instructions to any party who wishes to file this type of motion without the assistance of an attorney.  A party may also contact an attorney to file a motion requesting a change in the amount of support.


♥ Related Form: Motion Regarding Support
♥ Related Form: Response to Motion Regarding Support
Agreement to Modify the Support Order 
If the parties agree to change the support amount to a different amount determined by the child support formula both parents may sign an agreement and present an order to the court.  Once the order is signed by the judge, and filed with the county clerk, it becomes the new support order.
Retroactive Modification of Support Generally Not Allowed: Exception
Once child support is ordered, a later increase or decrease in the support amount generally cannot apply to any time period before the motion for a change was filed.  Michigan law recognizes one exception to that rule: a court may modify support retroactively if a party who has been ordered to do so has intentionally failed to report an income change to the Friend of the Court or has made a report that misrepresented that party’s income.
Support Questions and Answers

  • How do I get an order for child support?
If no one has yet commenced a civil lawsuit that raises the child support issue, you first must file a complaint that includes a request  that the court enter a child support order.  If you and the other parent agree to establish support at the amount determined by the standard child support formula, you may sign an agreement.  Once that agreement is put in the form of an order, signed by the judge, and filed with the county clerk, it becomes the court’s support order.  If you cannot agree to follow the formula, the judge will determine the appropriate support amount.

  • Do I need an attorney to get a support order?
You are not required to have an attorney.  However, you may find that you need an attorney’s help to file the correct papers and otherwise follow the court rules.

  • May I receive child support after my child reaches age 18?

Child support can continue up to age 19½ if the child attends high school on a full-time basis with a reasonable expectation of  completing sufficient credits to graduate and the child continues to reside on a full-time basis with the person who receives the support payments.

  • If I have been paying child support as required by the court’s order but the custodial parent will not allow me the parenting time required by that order, do I have to keep paying support?

Yes, an order’s parenting time and child support provisions are enforced separately.

  • The other parent is not paying child support as ordered.  What can I do?

Contact the Friend of the Court for enforcement help if the other parent is more than one month behind on the support payments.  You may also hire an attorney to start enforcement proceedings.

  • My court order says to pay support through the Michigan State Disbursement Unit.  May I pay the other parent directly?

No, and you might not receive credit for payments made directly to the other parent.

  • If I am receiving TANF or Family Independence Program (FIP) public assistance, may I also receive child support?

No, in that situation, the MiSDU must send any support payments that it receives from the other parent to the Department of Human  Services to offset the public assistance that you received.

  • Will Friend of the Court make sure  that child support money is spent on the children?

No, the law does not authorize the Friend of the Court to investigate how the custodial parent spends child support payments.  However, the court may change the custody or support arrangements if you can show that the custodial parent has neglected the children’s needs.

  • Will the court modify  the support order if the payer is in jail or prison?

The support amount is determined by the standard child support formula, which considers the parties’ incomes.  The Friend of the Court is required to initiate a review within 14 days of receiving notice that a parent has been incarcerated or released from incarceration.