Providing financial support for a child is an obligation most parents willingly accept as they will do everything they can to ensure that their children are afforded the best lives possible. However, the desire to satisfy a child support obligation for your child may not mesh with your current financial reality. Some people become so overwhelmed by their inability to pay child support that they cut off communication with everyone in their family, including their child, in order to avoid possible arrest and incarceration. An amnesty program in Eaton County, Michigan, is currently being discussed which will allow parents behind on child support to clear any outstanding bench warrants if they appear and explain why they are delinquent. It will also allow the court to direct them toward programs that can help them erase their arrearages and better manage their finances.
In order to ensure that your child support arrearage does not result in the issuance of a bench warrant, you should explore whether you may qualify for a modification to your monthly child support obligation, as Michigan law permits courts to modify child support orders if a change in circumstances is applicable.
Grounds for Modification
As a preliminary note, all child support orders and modification requests are controlling until the child graduates from high school or until the child is 19.5 years old and still enrolled in high school with a reasonable expectation of graduation. However, this limit does not apply to back-owed child support, which remains an obligation of the payer until all of the arrears are satisfied in full.
Either parent, payer or payee, can request a modification related to a change in circumstance. Typical circumstances that would likely convince a judge to modify a child support order include:
- Loss of employment;
- An increase in salary;
- A catastrophic medical event or permanent disability;
- A change in custody; or
- A significant change in parenting time.
How to Request a Modification
There are two methods a parent can use to request the modification of a child support order.
First, a parent can file a Motion Regarding Support through an attorney or on his/her own as a In Pro Per party. The parent needs to provide evidence supporting the modification, such as tax returns and pay stubs, and be able to explain to the court why the change is in the best interest of the child. A hearing is then scheduled where a judge or referee considers the parent’s petition by looking at the evidence and listening to statements from both parties. Bringing a witness to the hearing who can provide testimony supporting the request for modification is also a helpful way to strengthen the petition.
The second way a parent can request modification is applicable to families that receive public assistance. In these cases, agents for the Friend of the Court Bureau (FOC) automatically review all child support orders every 36 months to determine if a modification is warranted. Additionally, either parent may request a review more frequently if the financial circumstances of one or both have changed. If the FOC finds there is sufficient information justifying a change in child support, it will file a petition for modification with the court. The entire process, from the FOC’s review to the court’s decision, must be completed within 180 days.
Speak with a Michigan Child Support Lawyer
Getting behind on child support can quickly turn into debt that seems insurmountable to overcome. If you have any reason to question your ability to pay this obligation, meet with an Attorney to see if you have grounds to modify your support obligation before things spiral out of control. The family law firm of Iafrate & Salassa, P.C. in Clinton Township has years of experience in domestic relations matters and can assist you with any related issues. Contact them today to schedule a free consultation.