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Common Divorce Questions: How Is Child Support Determined?

Child support can be a contentious issue.  The way it is resolved in our jurisdiction is that all family law attorneys use the same support formula the court uses.  We have a software program at Schmitt Law, PLLC, that we use to determine the amount of support one parent pays to the other.

What is Child Support?

Child support is a court-ordered payment from one parent to the other to help support the raising of the children.  It stems from the legal theory that children have a legal right to financial support from both parents.  A parent cannot avoid paying child support by agreeing to have his or her parental rights terminated.

The Michigan child support formula determines which parent will pay support.  Some factors considered are:

  • The income earned by each parent.
  • The number of children that are supported.
  • How many overnights the children spend with each parent.

We put those numbers into our software program, and it objectively gives us a number.  The parents can deviate from that amount only if there is a legitimate reason to do so.

If one parent wants the other to pay a different amount, we must do a deviation addendum explaining why and file it with the court.  A friend of the court and the court must approve the request, and then it becomes the order of the court.

Why Does a Parent Pay Child Support?

Some parents get confused about why they pay child support.  They may say “I buy everything for my kids.  Why do I have to give the other parent any money?”  The answer is that Michigan state law says it is the child’s right to receive support and the parents may not waive it.

The child support formula involves determining amounts to be paid by each parent for:

  • The uninsured portion of health care costs to be paid by each parent.  The custodial parent will have to reach a certain amount of out-of-pocket payments before that number is used.
  • Basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter.
  • School supplies.
  • Extracurricular activities.

If the parents want to agree on an amount, and the court confirms it meets the needs of the children, the parents can do that.

One thing the court cannot do is mandate how the receiving parent spends the money.  That parent does not have to keep an accounting of how the money is spent.  The paying parent cannot micromanage the spending habits of the receiving parent.

For assistance with your child support issue, contact me, Laurie Schmitt, at Schmitt Law, PLLC.  I am an Attorney, Mediator, and Collaborative Divorce lawyer.