The Michigan Supreme Court has held that a parent’s lack of resources could be a defense for not paying child support. The ruling marks a change from previous law. In practice, however, proving inability to pay may be very difficult.
Judges look at each case individually to determine what parents should pay in child support. Using the Michigan Child Support Formula as a guideline. The formula looks at how many children are involved, the parent’s income and – most importantly – the amount of time each parent spends with the child.
But shared custody does not necessarily equate to child support. Even a parent sharing custody may still be ordered to pay child support.
Losing a job does not excuse a parent from paying child support, at least not immediately. Even if parents lose their job or their income level changes, it takes time for the court to modify the child support amount.
Failure to pay child support can mean jail time for some parents, and the reason for failure to pay does not necessarily matter. Other punishments for failure to pay can include suspension of a driver’s license, passport denial or liens against property.
So while the new Michigan ruling states that lack of income may conceivably be a defense to failure to pay child support, such a defense may not be valid in a given case.
If a parent isn’t making any money, the court has the authority to determine whether the parent has the ability to earn an income or if the parent is simply not making money to avoid paying child support. Once a figure is calculated for what the parent is capable of earning, the court may impute that number into the formula to determine child support payments.
Source: Cadillac News, “Child support enforcement: Does it pay?,” Aug. 25, 2012
Our firm handles situations similar to those discussed in this post. To learn more about our practice, please visit our Michigan child support page.