With businesses reeling and people experiencing layoffs and furloughs due to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s understandable that many parents are worried about how they’re going to continue meeting their child support obligations. If you have experienced a reduction in your income, you may be able to get your child support obligation temporarily or permanently reduced.
Courts in Michigan determine how much child support to award based on a number of factors, including both parents’ incomes. When a parent’s circumstances change, they may be able to get their child support obligation modified. If you were laid off or let go from your job due to cuts brought on by the COVID-19 crisis, you may be able to petition the court to reduce your child support payments based on a significant change in circumstances.
It’s important to note that you should always go through the court for this. It’s never a good idea to simply stop paying child support or agree with the other parent to temporarily reduce your payments. If you stop or reduce your child support payments without court approval, you could end up having to make up the deficiency later on.
Under Michigan law, Friend of the Court offices are required to automatically review child support every three years. However, as a practical matter, they will not do so due to the number of cases they have, unless there is a specific request by one of the parties. Visit the website of your local Friend of the Court office for instructions for seeking a modification order on an expedited basis.
Fortunately, most courts in Michigan and elsewhere have quickly adapted to the changing times by holding their hearings online through Zoom and other applications, making it easier for parents to modify their child support obligations.
If your request for a modification is successful, your new child support obligation will be retroactive to the date you filed your motion for a modification. It is important to remember that, if there is a change in circumstances that may affect child support (either an increase or decrease), a motion/petition must be filed with the court. If, for example, your income has decreased significantly, but you wait six months before filing a motion/petition for review of child support, the court only has the authority to modify child support effective as of the date of the motion/petition. The court cannot go back to the time the income was decreased, if no motion/petition was filed.
The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in financial hardship for many people. If you are struggling to keep up with your child support obligations due to a reduction in your income, help is available. At Dawson Family Law, PLLC, we’re here to assist you. Schedule your free consultation by calling 833-671-4445. You can also contact us online.