At Melissa Pearce & Associates, the well-being of children is our priority. From personal experience, we understand the difficulties children face when their parents divorce or separate. This is why we take special care to treat children with respect and empathy. First and foremost, by keeping them sheltered from the difficult conversations and decisions that go into a divorce or separation agreement. We believe parents want what is best for their children.
Our goal is to work cooperatively with our clients to understand their unique circumstances. Transparency and education are key to us. We believe that when our clients understand what to expect, it makes an overwhelming process a bit less daunting. Trust an experienced Novi child support attorney to guide you through the process and fight for your parental and financial rights.
In Michigan, both parents are responsible for the financial needs of their child. These court-ordered payments are for the financial support of a child. Medical care and insurance, education, child care, or other expenses may influence the order of support. Typically, court-ordered child support is paid by a non-custodial parent to the parent with primary custody on a monthly basis.
Child support generally is ordered when parents are not living together. In some cases, children are supported by parents who were never married. For example, if a mother is the primary custodian of a child, but the father is not contributing financial support, the mother may bring a child support action to require the father to make monthly payments.
The court may also order a paternity test before ordering child support, if fatherhood is in question. In other cases, married parents decide to separate or divorce, which raises questions about how child support will be divided. A couple may agree on child support arrangements in their divorce or separation agreement, or a court may issue a child support order.
The state of Michigan—like every other state in the U.S. operates on the assumption that both parents will contribute to the financial support of their children following a divorce. While you and your ex may no longer be married, you will always be your children’s parents. Financially supporting your children shows them you love them and care about their well-being. While determining child support may seem no more complex than plugging a few numbers into an online child support calculator, it can have many more nuances.
Child support calculators generally only represent the minimum and seldom include all the actual costs of raising a child. In other words, there is much more to child support calculations than meets the eye, and it is wise to have a knowledgeable Novi child support attorney to help you through the process. Today, the Federal government requires that every state have a “formula” for determining child support. This is definitely an improvement from the days when a judge might simply pull a figure out of the air with little to back it up. This doesn’t mean that the formula may not be extremely complicated, especially for those states—like Michigan—that use the “Income Shares” model.
The Income Shares model considers the income of both spouses—minus certain allowable deductions—and the number of “overnights” that will be spent with each parent. A dollar amount is then calculated that one party will pay to the other that ostensibly offsets the disparity in incomes and parenting time. Determining child support requires that a Parenting Plan is in place, along with spousal support, so the actual money and parenting times can be accurately calculated. Further, child support is intended to cover the child’s “basic” needs, such as housing, food, health insurance, and clothing.
As any parent can tell you, those basic needs are often just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what it actually costs to raise children. What about summer camps, music lessons, sports involvement, tablets, computers, and smartphones (and smartphone monthly plans)? For younger children, there may be childcare costs, and for babies, formula, diapers, and childcare. For older children parents know that there is always something that costs money—prom dresses and tuxes, cars, car insurance, braces…the list is virtually endless. These are considered “extraordinary” expenses, therefore are not included in the basic child support amount.
So, which parent pays for these extraordinary expenses? As if that weren’t a complicated enough question, which parent will claim the children on their taxes? How will health insurance and medical expenses not covered by health insurance be paid? Will both parents be required to carry life insurance for the children? Which parent will pay college tuition costs? How long will child support payments last? Will there be regular cost of living increases to the basic child support? It’s enough to make your head spin, which is why determining child support is so complicated—yet so important.
Can’t you just let the judge decide what the child support should be in your case by using the Income Shares formula? While you certainly can do this, keep in mind that the judge has no idea what your children may need—now, or in the future. And while you and your ex may not have a crystal ball, you do know your own children and likely have a much better idea of what they may need in the coming years than the judge. This is why many parents rely on mediation to come to agreements regarding child custody and child support because that agreement will be one that you both agree is fair rather than leaving these incredibly important decisions to a stranger.
It’s important to understand that even if you and your ex share custody 50/50, this does not mean that one parent may not be required to pay child support to the other. Assuming shared custody, if one parent makes $8,000 per month and the other makes $2,000 per month, the higher-earning parent will definitely be paying child support to the lower-earning parent. The Income Shares model uses net income, which is all income minus permitted deductions and adjustments.
Income includes earnings from a business, partnership, profits from retirement accounts, rental income, and most any other type of income received by the parent. If one parent is willfully unemployed or underemployed, the court will impute income to that parent based on education, prior work history, physical and mental ability to work, diligence exhibited in job hunting, and the availability of work opportunities. The Michigan Child Support Formula allows the court to deviate from the formula when it would lead to an inappropriate or unfair amount. The court can order either parent to provide health insurance, so long as the coverage is available for a “reasonable” cost.
Since every situation is different, it’s impossible to say what the “average” amount of child support is in the state of Michigan. A very rough estimate holds that the average cost of raising one child is $1,000 per month, but there are many variables that would impact that amount. Speaking with a knowledgeable Novi child support attorney from Melissa Pearce & Associates, PLC, can help you determine what child support will look like in your specific situation.
Although child support generally ends when the child turns 18, if the child is still attending high school full-time with a reasonable expectation of graduating, and lives with the parent who receives the child support, a judge can extend child support until the child is 19 ½. If the child has special needs and will require financial support for life, this is a different situation that will be taken into consideration by the judge.
Child support can be used for the child’s basic expenses, including a home, utilities, food, clothing, and healthcare. While child support could conceivably be used for other expenses related to the child, this would only be allowable if the child’s basic needs were being met. In other words, the parent receiving child support cannot send the child to a pricey summer camp without first ensuring the child has food, clothing, shelter, and healthcare.
Formulas regarding child support calculations are not always perfect. Each situation is unique, so sometimes the outcome of the child support formula unfairly disadvantages one parent over another. There are two ways to dispute the result of the formula.
First, both parents can agree on a different amount. If the parents can come to a separate agreement that is in the child’s best interest, the court may set aside the unfair result of the formula and honor the parents’ new agreement.
Second, if the parents do not agree on a different amount, the parent owing child support may petition the court to adjust the final child support amount. In this case, the court may consider the special circumstances of both the child and the parent.
Circumstances change over time. Parents may lose jobs, increase income, have additional children, or remarry; countless events could alter the prior agreement. Our experienced Novi child support attorneys assist clients long after the order is issued. We work with our clients on post-judgment modifications because the emotional and financial well-being of our clients and their children are important to us.
Melissa Pearce & Associates has been serving southeast Michigan for over ten years. We know the child support process inside and out, and more importantly, we know how to fight for our clients’ parental and financial rights. Raising a child is one of the most important and challenging experiences in a person’s life.
We believe in protecting the welfare of the children involved in family law matters, and we pride ourselves on our ability to counsel our clients on the best way to communicate and care for their children during these difficult times. Trust us to fight for you. Contact our child support attorneys to schedule your pre-engagement meeting so we can learn more about your unique case.