Understanding Child Support in Michigan: An Introduction

Child support is a pretty complicated sub-area of family law, that doesn't always get enough attention. This is despite the fact that every Michigan family law case is going to have some interaction with the concept of child support. So, we're going to break down the basics of child support in Michigan over a series of blog posts, and even touch on a little of the slightly more complicated areas that might be interesting to the reader of this niche subject.

First though, what is child support?

Child support is the court-ordered payment of money from one biological or adoptive parent of a minor child to the other biological or adoptive parent, for the purpose of care and maintenance of the minor child.

Let's break that definition down a little:

1. Court-ordered payment. A child support obligation is court-ordered. Until a court orders a child support obligation, biological or adoptive parents are not legally obligated to pay support to the other parent.

2. biological or adoptive parent. Generally, only biological or adoptive parents of minor children are obligated under the laws of the State of Michigan to pay child support. Non-biological or adoptive parties can become obligated under the concept of the equitable parent doctrine, about which I have previously written.

3. of a minor child. Generally, only children under 18 years old, or in some circumstances adults aged 19 and a half years old, can be the sources of a child support obligation for their biological or adoptive parents.

4. for the purpose of care and maintenance of the minor child. I frequently listen to people complain about how their co-parent is using the child support payments they receive for matters only tangentially-related to the parents' child. Child support is supposed to be used for the kid, although in practical terms dividing what is for children versus for adults can be tricky.

In my next blog post on this subject, we'll learn more about what is consider income in Michigan's child support formula guidelines.

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