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Common Questions about Managing Child Support Debt

Contents

    These are common questions about managing child support debt.

    Questions about Managing Child Support Debt

    What are arrears?

    Past due child support is called “arrears.” It is a debt a child support payer owes to a person, the state, or both. The person the payer owes support to is usually the child’s other parent or guardian. A payer may owe money to the State of Michigan if the payee or the child gets public benefits now or got them when child support was charging.

    What if I can’t afford to pay my child support arrears?

    Michigan law provides some debt-management options for people who can’t pay their arrears. Depending on your situation, you may qualify for a payment plan for your arrears and to have some of your arrears discharged (forgiven). If the judge allows it, this means that you would have the chance to pay a set amount towards your debt for a certain period of time. Then, if you complete the payment plan, the judge can discharge your remaining debt.

    How do I ask for a payment plan or discharge of debt for my child support arrears?

    Request a Discharge of State-Owed Debt from the Friend of the Court

    If you only owe arrears to the state, and not a person, you can complete a Request to Discharge State-Owed Debt and file it with the Friend of the Court (FOC) office in the county where your child support order comes from. Consider doing this if you think you have good reasons for the FOC to discharge your debt or if you can show it would be very difficult for you to pay the debt. If you owe arrears on court orders in more than one county, you must file the form with each FOC office where you are asking for a discharge of state-owed debt. The FOC will consider your request and decide whether to discharge any of the debt.

    File a Motion with the Circuit Court

    If you owe arrears to the state, a person, or both, you can file a motion with the circuit court asking the judge to set up a payment plan and discharge arrears. You can use our Do-It-Yourself Motion to Manage Child Support Debt to do this. If you owe arrears in more than one family court case, you must file a motion in each case where you are asking for a payment plan and discharge of debt.

    By filing this motion, you are asking the judge to let you pay a set amount towards the arrears for a certain number of months, and then to discharge (forgive) the remaining arrears after you complete the plan.

    For the judge to approve the payment plan, there are different standards you must meet depending on whether you owe arrears to the state, a person, or both. Read the article I Need Help Managing My Child Support Debt to learn more.

    What if my child’s other parent asks to discharge child support arrears?

    Arrears Owed to the State of Michigan

    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). Your child’s other parent can also file a motion with the circuit court asking the judge to set up a payment plan and discharge arrears. This type of request or motion won’t affect any current child support or arrears the other parent owes you, so you do not need to respond.

    Arrears Owed to You

    If your child’s other parent owes arrears to you, he or she can file a motion with the circuit court asking the judge to set up a payment plan for the debt and 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. The judge can only grant the Motion for Payment Plan/Discharge of Arrears if you voluntarily agree to it. To learn more, read the article My Child’s Other Parent Asked to Discharge Child Support Debt.

    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 going to the hearing.

    What happens if the judge approves the payment plan for arrears?

    If the judge approves a payment plan, the payer must make monthly payments for a certain time period according to the payment plan. At the end of the payment period, if the payer has made the required payments, the judge can forgive the remaining arrears.

    What if I owe arrears but my child gets Social Security benefits due to my disability?

    If you owe child support debt and your child gets Social Security benefits because of your disability, you may be able to get a credit. The benefits your child gets can be credited towards the arrears that have accrued since the date of your disability. You will not get a credit towards any arrears you owed before your disability. If you think you are entitled to a credit, talk to the Friend of the Court.

    Can arrears be reinstated after the judge approves the payment plan?

    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 him or her 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.

    How can I stop my child support debt from growing?

    If you have one or more current child support orders and you want to stop your child support debt from growing, you must either pay the required support or ask the judge to change the support amount. To find out more about changing the amount of child support, go to the I Need to Get or Change a Child Support Order toolkit.