Your Judgment of Divorce has been entered with the court. But the entry of the Judgment of Divorce has not stopped the issues with your ex-spouse that led to the divorce first place. Now, you are being denied parenting time or being left in the dark on decisions about medical care, schooling, or childcare. How far back in time can you go to help the court understand the issues you have been having?

The courts are limited in what they can do by what the statutes and case law have said about modifying previous orders. For child custody and parenting time, there are statutes and case law that controls the actions and the sequence of those actions that a court can implement.

First, the courts are instructed by statute that a previously entered order cannot be modified unless proper cause or a change of circumstances has been shown. MCL 722.27(1)(c). The party seeking the modification only needs to show one or the other and not both.

Proper cause has been defined as an appropriate reason for the court to change custody currently exists. This would be something that is serious enough to have a significant impact on the child’s well-being. It would also be relevant to at least one of the best interests of the child factors. The moving party will likely to have to prove their case by a preponderance of the evidence (51% certainty or more likely than not).

Change of circumstances requires proving that since the date of the last custody order, the conditions surrounding the child, which have or could have a significant effect on the child’s well-being, have materially changed. Any problems that existed prior to the last order that was entered are not relevant. In addition, the change must be not one that can be seen as a normal life change in a child’s life, such as changing schools, participating in extracurricular events, or the other parent remarrying. Evidence must be presented that the change of circumstances has had or most certainly will have an effect on the child. An effect to one parent or the other will not be enough as the court looks at the best interests of the child. The court will determine each case on its fact and how those facts relate to the best interests of the child.

Change of circumstances is the requirement that clients struggle to understand fully. Some common substantial change of circumstances may include the following: a loss or gain of employment, a sudden change in either party’s finances, a relocation of the parties or children, or a death. The key phrase we emphasize to client is that the conditions that could have a significant effect on the child’s well-being have materially changed. This means the change is not temporary or agreed to by the parties.

Understanding the two grounds for seeking a modification of an existing order leads us to the answer. Generally, the courts will only consider events that have happened since the entry of the last order to determine if the court will be able to decide on requested modification can be heard. This is the first step in seeking a modification in a current custody or parenting time order.

Child Support. It is one issue that can slow down a divorce case. But there are five things that you should know about child support before you bring your divorce to a standstill over the amount of child support being proposed or ordered.

Child Support is controlled by statute.

In Michigan, child support is codified in law. It is known as the Support and Parenting Time Enforcement Act, MCL 552.601 et seq. It was enacted in 1982. It has been modified six times since being enacted with the last amendment happening in 2001.

Child Support is not modifiable retroactively.

Once a child support has been entered by the court, it cannot be retroactively modified except for limited circumstances. MCL 552.603(2). This means once child support is due, which is the first of a month after an order has entered, it cannot be modified after that due date. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. The first exception is when child support is ordered under a temporary order. MCL 552.603(3). Another exception is when the parties agree to a retroactive modification and that agreement is approved by the court. MCL 552.603(5). Another exception is when the individual required by the Friend of the Court knowingly and intentionally fails to report, refuses to report, or knowingly misrepresents his or her income. In this situation, the court may retroactively correct the amount of support after notice and an opportunity to be heard. MCL 552.603b.

Filing a motion and providing notice to the other party can create a date for retroactive modification.

When you have a need to modify your child support order and the other party refuses, you can file a motion to modify child support and provide notice to the other party. This date becomes the first date that child support can be modified. This means that the court can retroactively modify the child support order back to the date the motion was filed, and notice was provided to the other party. Therefore, whenever there is a change in your circumstances that warrants a child support modification, you need to file a motion as soon as possible to preserve the date for retroactive modification.

Child support runs into the future.

A child support order runs into the future, but it is set on current factors. When determining a child support order amount, your current situation will be used. Your current income; ability to work or work more hours, if unemployed or underemployed; any childcare expenses; any medical insurance premiums paid, filing status on tax returns, and number of overnights exercised are all taken into consideration. However, life is never static, and neither should your child support order remain static. If there is a change in your circumstances, such as the number of overnights or if your employment changes, it is time to consult with an attorney to determine if you need to seek a modification. If childcare ends or medical insurance is no longer paid, then those amounts should be dropped from the child support calculations and the order revised.

Child support is for the support of your children.

Remember, child support is paid to help support your children. Refusing to pay your child support impacts the lives of your children. If you are having difficulty in paying your child support, be upfront with the other parent. Open communication with the other parent may make requesting a modification in support easier.

If you need to modify your child support order, call us today to learn about the different packages available to assist you.

When it comes to children and divorce, there can be confusion on legal custody, physical custody, parenting time, child support and medical support. Each one of these is a separate issue that must be resolved before the Judgment of Divorce is entered. This blog is introductory on what each one is, and we will explore them in further depth in upcoming blogs.

Legal Custody.

First, legal custody means that a parent has the right make important decisions about your children, such as where they go to school, what religion they are, and major medical decisions. There are two ways this is handled in Michigan. The first way is that the court can award sole legal custody to one parent. This is become the exception more than the rule. The second way is that the court can award joint legal custody to both parents. This is when both parents would have to work together and agree on each of the decisions. If the parents cannot agree, then either one can petition the court for a decision.

Physical Custody.

Physical custody is who the child lives with after the divorce is finalized. If parties can agree, then the physical custody can be one that consider both parents’ work schedules, distances to school, ability to transport back and forth to school for each parent, extracurricular activities of the children, and any unique of the children or parents. The schedule should promote what is best for the child and not necessarily what is the most convenient or desired outcome for either parent.

Parenting Time.

Parenting time is the time the non-custodial parent (the parent who does not have the child living with him or her most of the time) spends with the child. For parents with joint physical custody, this would be the time the child spends in his or her house. Each county has a version of standard parenting time. However, the parties can craft a parenting time schedule that is best for children and considers work schedules, distance to school, ability to transport the child to school, need for childcare, and extracurricular activities. For some parents, parenting time may be supervised for a period of time and would be dependent on the circumstances for those parents and children. Parenting time cannot be denied if child support is not paid.

Child Support.

Child support is money a parent pays to help meet his or her child’s needs when the parent is not living with the child. The court orders the support based on the Michigan Child Support Formula. Support may include payment of the expenses of medical, dental, and other health care, childcare expenses, and school expenses. If either party receives state assistance in any form, then the parties cannot deviate from the child support formula. Child support cannot be denied if parenting time is not occurring.

Medical Support.

Medical support is a form of child support that is often provided through an employer’s health insurance plan. Child support agencies will send a National Medical Support Notice (NMSN) to the employer to order coverage for an employee’s children. The medical support language is contained within the Uniform Child Support Order. It will designate if one or both parents will maintain medical insurance on the children. It will also set a limit of the parent’s income to be used to obtain the medical insurance. If the cost of medical insurance exceeds the limit, the parent can petition to not have the insurance. If both parents are carrying medical insurance on the children, then one parent’s insurance will be primary, and the other’s will be secondary. The order will determine how much each parent will pay toward any uninsured medical expenses not covered by the insurance.

Each one of these areas are considered separately from the others. Although some areas can affect another area. For instance, the number of overnights exercised by a parent for parenting time will impact the amount of child support. However, which parent has legal custody will not change the outcome of child support including medical support.

If you have minor children and are considering divorce, call us to learn more about how a divorce will impact your children and what you can do to minimize that impact.