Child support is a parent’s court-ordered payment to help with the costs of raising a child. The judge can enter an order to start or change child support until a child turns 18, or in some situations, until the child turns 19 ½.
Children have a legal right to financial support from both parents. A parent can't avoid paying child support by agreeing not to have parenting time (visitation) or by agreeing to have their parental rights terminated. Sometimes a parent must continue to pay child support even after their parental rights have been terminated. If your child's other parent owes support, you cannot limit parenting time as a way to enforce child support.
Who Can File a Motion Regarding Support?
The parent who files the motion is the “moving party.” The moving party can be the Plaintiff or Defendant in the family law case. The moving party can be the person who pays child support or the person who gets it. The other parent is called the respondent. The respondent can also be the Plaintiff or the Defendant in the case.
When Can a Parent File a Motion Regarding Support?
A party who files a motion in a case is called the moving party. The moving party can be either the plaintiff or the defendant in a case.
Either party can file a Motion Regarding Support to ask the court to start child support if there is a family law case but no child support order.
Either party can file a Motion Regarding Support to ask the court to change the amount of child support if there is already a child support order.
A judge can enter a court order to start or change child support any time until a child turns 18, or in some cases until the child turns 19 ½. To get a change in the amount of child support, the moving party must show there is a reason for the change. Examples of reasons why child support could be changed include:
- Either parent gets a raise or a new job that pays more
- Either parent loses a job
- Either parent begins to provide health care coverage for the child
- The child’s needs increase
- Custody arrangements change
- Child care expenses increase
- A child turns 18 and is no longer in high school
The Michigan Child Support Formula is used to calculate child support. If either parent asks to start child support or to change it, the judge will use the formula to decide the amount of support. To find out what the support amount might be in your case, you can use the MiChildSupport Calculator on the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) website.
What Can I Do If I Get a Motion Regarding Support?
Read the Papers Carefully
If you were served with a Motion Regarding Support, read it right away. It is important to understand what the moving party is asking the court to do. It is also important to know the date, time, and place the court hearing is scheduled.
Decide How You Want to Respond
If the other party files a Motion Regarding Support and you don't do anything, the court may change the child support order without any input from you. This may be fine if you agree with the other parent’s proposed change, but consider filing a response if you disagree with something in the motion. For example, you may not agree that there has been a change in circumstances to justify changing the support amount.
You still may be able to participate in the court hearing if you don't file a written response, but it is best to file a response and go to the hearing.
Pay Attention to Deadlines
Court cases have strict deadlines. If you decide to file a response to the Motion Regarding Support, you must file it with the court at least three days before the hearing. Then you must serve the moving party with a copy of the response. If the response is served in person, it must be served at least three days before the hearing. If the response is mailed to the moving party, it must be mailed at least five days before the hearing.
How to File a Response to a Motion Regarding Child Support
You can use our Do-It-Yourself Response to Motion to Change Child Support tool to create your response.
Once you have your response, date and sign it. Make five copies. Take the original and the copies to the court clerk’s office for filing. Serve a copy on the moving party.
For more detailed instructions, read the steps in Responding to a Motion Regarding Support.
What Happens Next?
There will probably be a hearing in front of a judge or a Friend of the Court referee. At the hearing you and the other parent will each have a chance to say why you think support should be started, changed, or left the same. Bring financial information to support what you are asking for, such as your most recent:
- Pay stubs, W-2s, income tax returns
- Social Security statements (if you get disability)
- Health care expenses
- Child care expenses
A referee is different from a judge. A referee makes a written report and recommendation after a hearing. A judge has to approve the recommendation before it can become an order in your case. If the hearing is with a referee, they will send a copy of their written report and recommended order to both parties and the judge after the hearing. After a referee issues a recommendation, if you do not file an objection within 21 days after you are served, the recommendation can become an order. To learn more, read Friend of the Court Overview.
If your hearing is in front of a judge, the judge may decide whether to start or change child support at the end of the hearing, or they may make a decision after the hearing.
The judge could also refer your case to the Friend of the Court for a support investigation and recommendation. If you disagree with the Friend of the Court recommendation, you will have a chance to file an objection before the recommendation becomes a court order. To learn more, read Friend of the Court Overview.
To learn more about child support, read Child Support in a Nutshell.
Warning! (If You Are Behind on Child Support Payments)
If you’re behind on your payments, you may want to talk to a lawyer before the court hearing. The judge may review your case and penalize you if you are behind on your payments.
If you need a lawyer, you can use the Guide to Legal Help to find lawyers and legal services in your area.
More about Child Support
Finding a Lawyer
You might decide you want a lawyer to help you. If you have a low income, you may qualify for free legal services. Whether you have a low income or not, you can use the Guide to Legal Help to find lawyers in your area. 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.