Past due child support is called “arrears.” It could be a debt a child support payer owes to a person, the state, or both. Your child’s other parent may owe money to you if he or she hasn’t paid court ordered child support on time. Your child’s other parent may owe money to the State of Michigan if you or your child gets public benefits now or got them when child support was owed.
Arrears Owed to the State of Michigan Only
If your child’s other parent owes arrears to the State of Michigan, he or she can ask for a discharge of some or all of the arrears from the Friend of the Court (FOC). It is up to the FOC to decide whether to forgive some or all of the debt. The FOC will consider whether the other parent has good reasons for the debt to be discharged and how difficult it would be for the other parent to pay the debt.
Your child’s other parent can also file a motion with the circuit court asking the judge to set up a payment plan for part of the debt and to discharge the rest of the arrears. If the judge allows it, the other parent will have the chance to pay a set amount towards the debt for a certain number of months. Then the judge can discharge (forgive) the remaining debt if the other parent completes the payment plan.
When all of the arrears are owed to the State of Michigan, you do not need to respond to the request or motion. Since the money is not owed to you, the FOC or judge won’t consider whether you agree with the payment plan or discharge of debt. This type of motion won’t affect any child support that the other parent owes to you.
Arrears Owed to You
If your child’s other parent owes arrears to you, he or she can also file a motion with the circuit court asking the judge to set up a payment plan for the debt and to discharge arrears. You will be served with a copy of the motion and have the chance to file a response and be heard in court.
If you agree and the judge allows it, the other parent will have the chance to pay a set amount towards the support debt for a certain number of months. Then the judge can discharge (forgive) the remaining debt if the other parent makes all payments under the plan.
In this situation, the judge can only grant the Motion for Payment Plan/Discharge of Arrears if you agree to it. You can’t be threatened, bullied, or intimidated into agreeing. If you don’t agree of your own free will, the judge can’t grant the motion.
If you agree, the judge can grant the motion only after determining that:
The debt isn’t a result of the other parent deliberately avoiding his or her child support obligation; and
The payment plan is in the best interest of you, the other parent, and your children.
You can use the Response to Motion Regarding Payment Plan/Discharge of Arrears to respond to the other parent’s motion. Follow the checklist and instructions that come with the form in order to fill it out, file it, and serve it properly. The instructions also give you information about attending the hearing.
Arrears Owed to Both You and the State of Michigan
Your child’s other parent may owe arrears to both you and the State of Michigan. The judge will look at each type of arrears separately. If the other parent qualifies for a payment plan for one type of arrears but not the other, the judge may grant only that part of the motion.
For example, the other parent may owe $8,000 to you and $5,000 to the state. If the other parent only qualifies for a payment plan for the state-owed debt, the judge will allow a payment plan for the $5,000. There will not be a payment plan for the $8,000, and no part of the $8,000 will be waived.
If the judge approves a payment plan, the order may list more conditions the other parent must meet. The possible conditions include:
- Participation in a parenting program
- Drug and alcohol counseling
- Anger management classes or participation in a batterer intervention program
- Participation in a work program
- Continued compliance with a current support order
Arrears can be reinstated in some situations. If the payer gets a large amount of money while the payment plan is pending — through an inheritance, a settlement, the lottery, etc. — arrears can be reinstated. Arrears can also be reinstated if a payee who waived arrears owed to them starts to get public assistance while the payment plan is pending. Arrears will not be reinstated automatically. The payee or the state has to file a motion and show good cause.