If your child’s other parent doesn’t obey the court order for child support, custody, or parenting time, you can file a motion to ask the court to enforce it or change it. This article talks about enforcement of these issues. If you need help enforcing the property or spousal support terms of your Judgment of Divorce, see Post-Divorce Judgment Issues – Property and Spousal Support.
Child Support, Custody, and Parenting Time Enforcement
The Friend of the Court (FOC) office helps enforce custody, parenting time, and child support orders.
Enforcing Child Support Payments
The best way for the FOC to make sure support is paid is withholding income directly from a paycheck or some Social Security benefits. If income withholding doesn't work in your case and your child’s other parent fails to pay child support, the FOC may ask for a court hearing called a show cause hearing. At a show cause hearing the judge will decide whether the other parent is in contempt of court for not obeying the child support order.
If there is a show cause hearing, you should attend. You can tell the court about income or assets the other parent has. You may also be able to help the FOC locate your child’s other parent.
Some of the possible sanctions for failing to pay child support are:
Garnishment of wages or bank accounts
Credit agency reporting
Intercepting tax refunds
License suspension (driver’s or hunting licenses)
The FOC can start child support enforcement on its own or at your request. You can also file a Motion and/or Order to Show Cause yourself. This website does not give you information about how to do this, but you can get a Motion and/or Order to Show Cause from the Supreme Court’s One Court of Justice website.
Child support and parenting time are not dependent on one another. Parents must pay court-ordered child support even if they are not spending time with their child. Also, parents must allow court-ordered parenting time even if they are not being paid child support.
If you have questions about how, when, or why to change a child support order, read Getting or Changing a Child Support Order.
Enforcing Custody and Parenting Time Orders
The FOC is required to enforce custody and parenting time orders. In many counties, the FOC has a worker who handles only enforcement issues. You can file a written complaint with the FOC to start enforcement proceedings if you:
Were denied parenting time or
Believe your child’s other parent violated the terms of your custody or parenting time order
First, make sure that your order includes specific parenting time provisions the court can enforce (for example, number of overnights per month or drop-off time). The FOC is required to help you prepare your written complaint if you ask them to. The FOC will notify your child’s other parent of your complaint. The FOC may choose not to act on your complaint if it comes more than 56 days after the parenting time violation.
The FOC will encourage you to try to resolve the dispute yourselves. If your dispute can’t be resolved, or if the other parent doesn’t respond to the complaint, the FOC can:
Order make-up visitation (for missed parenting time)
File a motion to modify the parenting time schedule or
Request an order for a show cause hearing
At a show cause hearing, the judge will decide whether your child’s other parent is in contempt for failing to obey the terms of the order. The judge will also decide what remedies to use.
If the court schedules a show cause hearing you should attend. You can let the FOC know about the custody or parenting time violation and what remedy you want to ask the court for.
You also have the right to file a Motion and/or Order to Show Cause yourself. This can be complicated. The judge may send you back to the FOC, which would add more time to the process. This could cause problems if you had an urgent reason for filing your own motion. This website does not give you information about how to file your own Show Cause Motion, but you can get the Motion and/or Order to Show Cause from the Supreme Court’s One Court of Justice website. To learn more about filling out blank court forms, read How to Fill Out, Serve, and File Court Forms.
Other Parenting Time Issues
Your child’s other parent may make parenting time difficult in ways that are not addressed in your order (for example, returning your child to you without personal items you had delivered with the child). Remember that the judge can only enforce the terms of your order. You should try to work out these other issues with the other parent. If you can’t, you may file a motion for a new order that addresses these issues.
To learn more, read Filing to Change Parenting Time.
Finding a Lawyer
Whether you have a low income or not, you can use the Guide to Legal Help to find lawyers in your area. If you have a low income, you may qualify for free legal services. If you are not able to get free legal services but can’t afford high legal fees, consider hiring a lawyer for part of your case instead of the whole thing. This is called limited scope representation. To learn more, read Limited Scope Representation (LSR): A More Affordable Way to Hire a Lawyer. To find a limited scope lawyer, follow this link to the State Bar of Michigan lawyer directory. This link lists lawyers who offer limited scope representation. You can narrow the results to lawyers in your area by typing in your county, city, or zip code at the top of the page. You can also narrow the results by topic by entering the kind of lawyer you need (divorce, estate, etc.) at the top of the page.