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Getting or Changing a Child Support Order

Contents

    Child support is a parent’s court-ordered payment to help with the costs of raising a child. The court 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. You can ask to start child support by filing a motion in your existing family court case. There are several different ways to change a child support order. 

    When to File a Motion Regarding Support

    If you have a family law case but no child support order, you can file a Motion Regarding Support to ask the court to start child support.

    Either party can file a Motion Regarding Support asking the court to change the amount of an existing child support order. The moving party (the parent asking to change support) must show the court 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

    File a Motion Regarding Support right away if your job changes or if the custody arrangement changes. Past due child support amounts normally cannot be changed. This means the court cannot change the amount of a child support payment after that payment is due. If the parents informally change custody arrangements, child support isn’t automatically changed. A parent must file a motion asking to change child support.

    The Michigan Child Support Formula is used to calculate child support. If either parent asks to start child support or to change it, the court 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 website.

    You can use our Do-It-Yourself Motion to Change or Get Child Support to prepare a Motion Regarding Support.

    If you don’t have an existing case in family court, you cannot file a Motion Regarding Support. You must first file a complaint for paternity, custody, divorce, separate maintenance, or family support to start a case. You can use our Do-It-Yourself Divorce to prepare the forms you need to start a divorce case, or our Do-It-Yourself Custody Case (Unmarried Parents) to start a custody case.

    If you are starting a paternity or family support case, the prosecuting attorney or Friend of the Court in your county may be able to help you. If you need help starting a court case, use Find a Lawyer to search for a lawyer or legal services near you.

    Friend of the Court Review

    If the child or custodial parent gets public benefits, the Friend of the Court (FOC) automatically reviews the child support order once every 36 months. The FOC will also review the child support order if a parent asks for a review in writing. A parent can only make this request once every 36 months (three years), unless the parent proves there has been a major change in circumstances. For example, a parent might show there has been a major change in either parent’s job or in the custody arrangements. A judge can also order the FOC to review support.

    The FOC will only ask the court to change child support if the difference between the current support amount and the new amount is at least 10 percent of the current support amount (or at least $50, whichever is greater). If the difference between the current support amount and the new amount is less, the FOC doesn’t have to ask the court to change it.

    For example, let’s say you currently pay $400 per month in child support, but your income went down because your work hours were cut. If it has been more than three years since you asked the FOC to review your order, you can request an FOC review in writing. If the FOC finds that your new child support obligation would be less than $350 per month, it will ask the court to change it. The difference in the two amounts is $50 and 12.5%.

    Warning!

    If You Are Behind on Child Support Payments

    If you are behind on your payments, you may want to talk to a lawyer before filing any papers in court. If you file a Motion Regarding Support, the judge may review your case and penalize you for the support you owe. Use Find a Lawyer to look for legal help in your area. If you need a lawyer and are low-income, you may qualify for free legal help.

    If you owe a lot of back child support (called “arrears”) that you are unable to pay, go to the Managing Child Support Debt toolkit to learn more about your options.

    You May Not Get What You Ask For

    A new order could make the support more or less than you have now. The judge will use the Michigan Child Support Formula to decide the amount of support. The judge must order support according to the formula unless the result would be unfair or inappropriate.

    If the parents reach an agreement about the child support amount, the court can consider the agreement, but it does not have to approve it. If you have agreed to child support in an amount different from the formula, you must fill out an extra form, the Uniform Child Support Order Deviation Addendum. File this form with your Uniform Child Support Order.

    How to File a Motion Regarding Child Support

    You can use our Do-It-Yourself Motion to Change or Get Child Support if you have:

    • A pending Michigan divorce, separate maintenance, paternity, custody, or family support case, and you want to ask the court to start child support; OR

    • A Michigan judgment of divorce or separate maintenance, or a paternity or custody order that didn’t include child support, and you now want to ask the court to start child support; OR

    • A child support order from a Michigan divorce, separate maintenance, paternity, custody, or family support case, and you want to ask the court to change the amount of child support.

    After you prepare your Motion Regarding Support form, date and sign it. Make several copies and take it to the Circuit Court Clerk’s office in the county where your family law case is located. Ask the clerk for a hearing date and time for your motion. The court will charge a fee to file your motion. If you get public assistance or cannot afford to pay the fee, you can ask the court to waive the fee. You can use our Do-It-Yourself Fee Waiver to do this.

    If you have a child support order from another state but now live in Michigan, you may want to talk to a lawyer or the local Friend of the Court office. You may be able to have your case transferred to Michigan, but you cannot use our forms to transfer your case.

    What Happens after You File a Motion Regarding Support

    Read the instructions in the I Need to Change or Get a Child Support Order toolkit to make sure you follow all the steps in the process.

    There will probably be a hearing in front of a judge or 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)

    • Bank statements

    • Child care expenses

    If you are asking for a change in child support, you may also bring witnesses who know about the financial changes or other changes.

    The judge or referee may decide whether to start or change child support at or after the hearing. Or your case may be referred to the Friend of the Court for an investigation and recommendation. You will have a chance to object to any recommendation from a referee or FOC caseworker before it becomes a court order.

    To learn more about child support, read Child Support in a Nutshell.