Ensuring that minor children have adequate care and support after a divorce or separation is a primary function of the Michigan family courts. Unfortunately, some parents fail to meet their child-support obligations by not paying in full or on time. When this happens, the parent with primary custody of the child has several tools available to coerce payments from the parents in default.
The following is a brief summary of child support enforcement mechanisms often used in Michigan:
- Income withholding — The state can order an employer to withhold wages or other compensation from the parent’s pay and to forward the funds directly to the parent who is owed child support. Income withholdings can be utilized for past-due child support balances as well as for current obligations.
- Pension withholding — As with wage withholdings, the state can compel a retired parent’s former employer to redirect pension benefits to a parent who is owed child support.
- Tax refund impounds — The state may seize a parent’s federal and/or state income tax refunds to pay any past-due child support obligations. A parent expecting a check from the government receives a notice of funds impound instead. These funds are turned over to the other parent for the benefit of the child.
- Property lien/levy — State government has the authority to place liens on any real estate or personal property owned by a parent who owes back child support. A lien is a security interest in the property based on an outstanding debt. Further, the state can levy the property, which means seizing it and then selling it off, allowing the proceeds to be used toward paying the child support owed.
- License suspension — The state of Michigan can suspend or refuse renewal of a wide variety of licenses based on failure to pay support. Doctors, lawyers, electricians, heating contractors, hair stylists and others can lose their state license privileges for failure to pay child support. Even a regular driver’s license may be suspended.
- Felony charges — In Michigan, failure to pay child support can be a felony carrying prison time and hefty fines. Incarceration is usually not effective where the nonpaying parent claims poverty, since time spent in jail does not produce income. Prosecution is usually reserved for cases where the parent can pay but simply refuses and after other means of coercion have been unsuccessful.
If child support payments you are owed are overdue and the paying parent has been unresponsive, your next step should be to consult with a qualified child support attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney can advise you of your rights and assist in taking the appropriate enforcement measures.
At Dawson Family Law, PLLC in Sterling Heights, Michigan, our family law attorney and support staff work diligently to protect you and your children. If you are involved in a child support matter, feel free to contact us online or call 833-671-4445 for an initial consultation.