UNEMPLOYMENT OF PAYOR
If you have a child support order and become unemployed, here are some things you should know:
I lost my job; do I still have to pay my support?
It is important to understand two things: 1) as support order remains in effect until it is changed (modified) by the Court, and 2) by law, a support order cannot be retroactively modified.
What does this mean to you? When you have a change in circumstances, such as the loss of your job, you should ask the court to change your support order as soon as possible. The court can only order a modification of your support obligation effective the date that you have filed and served your motion (request) on the other party. If you wait to file your motion, you will be responsible for all support that is charged in the meantime.
How do I get my support order changed?
You must ask the court to change (modify) your order. This is done by filing a motion (request) for modification. Your can file a motion by contacting an attorney. You also have the right in Michigan to represent yourself, and to file your motion on your own (pro per). If you wish to file a motion without an attorney, you can obtain pro per forms and instructions from the Friend of the Court either by calling and requesting the forms, stopping by the office and picking them up, or accessing the appropriate forms by clicking on the following link.
How can I find out how much my support should be?
Support in the State of Michigan must be ordered pursuant to the Michigan Child Support Formula, unless the Court determines that support under the Formula would be unjust or inappropriate. The Formula takes into account the incomes of each of the parties, the number of children that the parties have in common, the number of parenting time overnights each party has with the children during a typical year, as well as other factors such as other children. The Formulas is intended to assure equity in support orders throughout the State of Michigan, and to assure that the financial needs of children are met. Neither the State nor the Court wants a payer to pay more support than is required under the Formula. The Court and the Friend of the Court use a computer program to calculate the appropriate amount of support. Private attorneys also use computer programs. The results are normally similar/identical. You can access the Formula through the State Court Administrator (SCAO) web site.
After I file my motion, what happens?
Your motion will be heard by the Family Court Judge. There will be a court hearing at which the Court will determine if there is cause to modify support, i.e. a change in circumstances. If both parties are present and the Court has enough information at the hearing, the Court can order a modification of support at that time. Both parties are to provide their financial information to the Friend of the Court prior to the court hearing so a child support formula report can be completed for the Judge's review at the hearing. If the Court cannot determine the appropriate amount of support at the hearing, it may order the Friend of the Court to conduct a support investigation. It is essential that both parties provide all information that is necessary to the Friend of the Court. The Court will either set another hearing after the Friend of the Court investigation, or the Court may order that the modification be noticed for entry under the Friend of the Court Act.
How does entry under the Friend of the Court Act work?
Under the law (Friend of the Court Act) a modification of support can be calculated by the Friend of the Court and then sent to the parties as a proposed order. There is a notice sent with the proposed order, advising the parties that they can object to the proposed order by filing an objection with the Friend of the Court office within 21 days of the proposed order being mailed to them. If no objection is filed, the order is sent to the assigned Judge for signature, and is then entered by the Court as a modification order.
Does it cost money to file a motion to modify my support?
Yes, under the law there are two fees that must be paid when your motion is filed. One is a $20 motion fee, and the other is a $40 judgment fee for support orders. If you cannot afford to pay the fees that are required, you can ask the Court to waive fees due to being indigent. The forms and instructions to ask the court to waive fees are available through the Circuit Court Clerk. You should evaluate the cost of keeping your support obligation as it was ordered before your change in circumstances versus to what your support will likely be changed when modified. If you have had a significant reduction in your income your support may be reduced. If your income has not changed substantially the child support may not change as the Michigan Formula provides a $50 change threshold. That is the formula amount must be $50 higher or lower than the current amount due.
If I qualify for unemployment, will support be taken out of my unemployment compensation?
Yes, it should be done automatically. There is a direct link between Michigan Unemployment Agency and the Michigan Child Support Enforcement System to keep support payments coming for the benefit of the minor children. If you find that your support was NOT taken from your Unemployment Compensation check, you are responsible for making your payment on your own. You should send your payment to:
Lansing, MI 48909-7851
You can also make online payments at MiSDU web site.
Again, it is very important to ask the Court to modify your support order as soon as possible, as the amount that will be withheld from unemployment will be based upon the current court order.