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Ninth Judicial Circuit Court

FRIEND OF THE COURT HANDBOOK - FAMILY SUPPORT ACTIONS

A person who is separated from his or her spouse with no divorce pending and who has a minor child in his or her home may seek to establish a family support order under the Family Support Act. This is referred to as an Order of Support. The Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS) support specialists make referrals whether or not a person receives public assistance. For new case referral information you can call the Office of Child Support 866-540-0008. Generally, family support actions are started by the prosecuting attorney's office after a referral by the DHS. A person may also contact a private attorney to file an action.

The FOC has the responsibility to enforce all orders of support. If the parents get back together and decide to end the family support order, they must contact either the Prosecuting attorney or their attorney to obtain an Order of Dismissal. Notifying a DHS caseworker does not end the court's support order or constitute notice to the FOC.

After the order is signed by the Judge and filed with the court clerk, the FOC must be given a copy. When the FOC receives the Order of Dismissal, the family support order will stop. If children have received public assistance, arrangements to pay any back support owed to the state must be made with the FOC.

Either parent may begin a divorce action even though the court has ordered support in a family support action. The family support order will be replaced by a new support order in the Judgment of Divorce. A copy of the Judgment of Divorce must be provided to the FOC. Also, upon receipt of a signed letter from the parent who is to receive child support that the parents are back together, the FOC will prepare a petition and order to suspend the payment of support. If back child support is owed under the family support action for a time when the children were receiving public assistance, plans to pay the arrears must be made with the FOC.

If the parties have a family support order and have also filed for divorce, and decide to stop the divorce action, they must file an Order of Dismissal to end the family support order. Filing an order to dismiss the divorce will not end the family support order.

Paternity Actions

Paternity is a legal decision that legally identifies the father of a child born to an unmarried woman. Generally, either parent or the DHS can request the court to enter a judgment of paternity any time before the child reaches the age of 18.

Generally, paternity actions are started by the prosecuting attorney's office after a referral by the DHS. The DHS will make referrals to the prosecuting attorney whether or not a party receives public assistance. A party also has the right to contact a private attorney to file the paternity action.

Once paternity has been established, the court may order child support, reimbursement of medical expenses for the birth of the child, on-going health care expenses of the child, childcare costs and health insurance premiums for the child.

Custody and parenting time may be ordered in a judgment of paternity. However, the prosecuting attorney or any other attorney appointed by the court is not required to represent either party in deciding these issues. If the parties cannot agree on custody or parenting time decisions, they will need to represent themselves or get a private attorney to get a court order. The FOC cannot help with parenting time problems unless a court order for parenting time has been entered.

If the mother and father marry each other after the court enters the paternity order, they must give a copy of the marriage license to the FOC to end the support order. Arrangements must be made to pay any money owed to any public agency.

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