Friend of the Court
- NINTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT COURT
- THE FRIEND OF THE COURT
- PROCEDURES OF THE COURT
- DOMESTIC RELATIONS PROCESS.
- FAMILY SUPPORT ACTIONS.
- INTERSTATE ACTIONS.
- RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE PARTIES.
- DUTIES OF THE FRIEND OF THE COURT.
- CUSTODY QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS.
- PARENTING TIME ENFORCEMENT.
- PARENTING TIME QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
- SUPPORT ORDERS.
- Support Investigations and Reports.
- Child Support Formula.
- Surcharge on Overdue Support
- Enforcement of Support
- Immediate Income Withholding Orders.
- Show Cause Hearing.
- Income Tax Offset
- Public Assistance.
- Cash Bonds.
- Surety Bond.
- Property Seizure and Withholding.
- Financial Institution Data Match (FIDM)
- Passport Denial/Restriction.
- Credit Bureau Reporting.
- License Suspension.
- Fraudulent Conveyances.
- Criminal/Felony Charges.
- MODIFICATION OF A SUPPORT ORDER..
- SUPPORT QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS.
- CHANGES AFFECTING CHILD SUPPORT.
- MEDICAL SUPPORT.
- MEDICAL SUPPORT QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS.
- SPOUSAL SUPPORT.
- MAKING PAYMENTS.
- RECEIVING PAYMENTS.
- FEES AND CHARGES.
- QUESTIONS REGARDING OTHER ISSUES.
- COMPLAINTS ABOUT THE DOMESTIC RELATIONS LEGAL SYSTEM
- AVAILABILITY OF HUMAN SERVICES.
- GLOSSARY OF TERMS.
The Judges of the Ninth Judicial Circuit court and the staff of the Office of the Friend of the Court (FOC) are committed to assisting you while the court is handling your domestic relations matter. The FOC plays a significant role during and after the disposition of your case. During the period that your family is experiencing changes, the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court and the office of the FOC will do their best to handle your case in a professional manner.
This Friend of the Court Handbook is provided to help you understand the responsibilities, policies and procedures of the FOC in Kalamazoo County. The FOC makes recommendations to the Circuit Court on the content of orders and on the enforcement of the requirements of those orders. If you don't understand how that office works, it will help you. The office of the FOC is located at the Gull Road Justice Complex, 1536 Gull Road, Kalamazoo, Michigan.
The Family Services Division of the Circuit Court is responsible for hearing all domestic relations of family matters such as divorce, child custody, child support and parenting time. The Family Division is located at 1536 Gull Road, Kalamazoo, Michigan. This building is the Gull Road Justice Complex.
This handbook is designed to provide information that will answer many questions you may have, and may save you time and money by reducing the need for you to appear in court. It will benefit you to read this handbook thoroughly and to follow the procedures outlined in it.
Hon. Alexander C. Lipsey, Chief Judge
Hon. Curtis J. Bell
Hon. Stephen D. Gorsalitz
Hon. Julie K. Phillips
Hon. G. Scott Pierangeli
Hon. Pamela L. Lightvoet
Hon. Gary C. Giguere, Jr.
Hon. Paul J. Bridenstine
The purpose of this handbook is to provide persons who have a domestic relations case in the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court with helpful and accurate information regarding Friend of the Court (FOC) duties and responsibilities including the Federal Child Support Enforcement Program (also known as the IV-D Program). This handbook also outlines the basic responsibilities of the parties when the court has issued an order for support, parenting time, or custody. Any questions regarding procedures or requirements outlined in this handbook may be discussed with the FOC office or with an attorney of your choice.
The FOC is part of the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court system. Some of the different court locations are identified below (a map is available at the counter areas):
|Location||A Resource To:|
Michigan Avenue Courthouse
Friend of the Court
Michigan law created FOC offices in 1919. There is at least one office for each judicial circuit. FOC offices have the following duties:
- When parents cannot agree, or when directed by the judge, to conduct investigations and make reports and recommendations to the court regarding:
- Parenting time (which may include transportation)
- Amount of child support (including medical support, and in limited situations, spousal support).
- To offer mediation, when both parents agree to participate, as an optional way of settling disagreements over custody or parenting time.
- To collect, record, and send out support payments as ordered by the court (done through MiSDU).
- To provide enforcement services on custody, parenting time, and support orders.
The Kalamazoo County FOC handles specific areas of domestic relations cases heard by the Ninth Circuit Court, which serves Kalamazoo County. FOC employees are not allowed to give legal advice or to recommend specific attorneys. For assistance in getting a lawyer, contact: Kalamazoo Attorney Referral Service (800) 968-0738
Hours of Operation/Holidays
The FOC office is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. It is closed on the following holidays: New Year's Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Presidents' Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veteran's Day, General Election Day, Thanksgiving Day, the day after Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and New Year's Eve. If a holiday falls on Saturday or Sunday, the office may also be closed on the Friday before the holiday or the Monday after the holiday. If there is a question about whether or not the FOC will be open, please call toll free (877) 543-2660.
The Friend of the Court office is located on the first floor of the Gull Road Justice Complex, 1536 Gull Road, Kalamazoo, MI 49048. A large parking lot is available in front of the Gull Road Justice Complex.
Communication with the FOC Office
Please contact the FOC office in writing so that complete and accurate information is recorded in the case file. Written communications between the FOC and you ensures a complete record is maintained. Requests for enforcement of child, spousal or medical support or enforcement of parenting time must be in writing. Whenever communicating with the FOC, always include the case/docket number assigned to your case, phone number, and signature. Keep a copy for your records. Mail correspondence to:
Kalamazoo County Friend of the Court
1536 Gull Road
Kalamazoo, MI 49048-1621
To get the information to the person who can help you, or if a specific person or department asked for information from you, include the name of the staff member or department on your letter (i.e. Accounting, Customer Service, Legal, Enforcement, Medical Support, Modification).
A drop box is available outside the north entrance of the Gull Road Justice Complex. You may use the drop box to leave correspondence or make child support payments. DO NOT PLACE CASH IN THE DROP BOX. The drop box is checked each workday.
Please keep the FOC informed of changes in vital information concerning your case. Provide the FOC with written notice of any changes of: addresses, names, sources of income, medical insurance, telephone numbers, marital status of parties and minors, legal guardianships/adoptions, financial status including bankruptcy, and changes in the physical custody of the child. Also notify the FOC of the death of a party or child, the termination of parental rights, the reconciliation of parties, a child's high school graduation date and any other activity in any other court affecting your child.
E-Mail to the FOC
You may send e-mail to the FOC, including all the same information you would if sending correspondence by mail, except for documents requiring a signature. The e-mail address is FOC@kalcounty.com. This is checked several times each work day, with inquiries forwarded to the appropriate staff for response. It is available 24 hours per day, seven days per week.
Phoning the Friend of the Court
The interactive voice response (IVR) system allows callers to obtain general information and specific case information over the telephone 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The toll free number is (877) 543-2660.
General information is available about office hours, directions to the office, programs, family counseling, and court motions and procedures. Specific information is also available about individual cases. Case information is updated daily by the state. It includes the amount and distribution of the last support payment or the last three payments, the amount owed on the account, the amount and date of the last income withholding order, and the date, time and location of scheduled show‑cause hearings started by the Friend of the Court (but not those set by others). There is also an option for callers with other questions to be connected to operators (8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Mon.-Fri., excluding holidays). You can obtain specific instructions for reaching operators at MiSDU by asking for the handout "Using the IVR – How to Reach an Operator".
When you call, have a pen, paper and your social security number ready. Follow the instructions. To protect your privacy when you ask for Case/Docket Specific information, you will have to enter your Social Security Number, and then enter your Personal Identification Number (PIN). You must choose your PIN the first time you call. The Friend of the Court does not choose your PIN or know what PIN you choose.
If the automated system does not have your correct Social Security number, you can correct this by sending a copy of your Social Security card to: Kalamazoo County Friend of the Court, (Attention Records), 1536 Gull Road, Kalamazoo MI 49048. For faster service, you may fax your request and the copies of the documents to (269) 383‑8629.
If you do not remember your PIN, you must contact MiSDU in Lansing by calling toll free (877)543-2660 and follow the prompts.
Access to Friend of the Court Records
The records maintained by the FOC are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act and are not open to the general public. They are confidential records used to monitor domestic relations cases for the court. Michigan Court Rules (MCR) grant certain individuals, including the parties and attorney of record, access to non-confidential records of your case for review and copying. Your correspondence to the FOC can be shared with the other party. Copies of accessible records cost $1.00 per page. You may file a motion with the court for an order to access the FOC records and confidential information. A form is available from the FOC to help you ask for copies of accessible records.
Certified copies of Court orders may be obtained from the Court Clerk's office at 1536 Gull Road for a cost of $15. The time required to obtain a certified copy differs depending on how old the order is and where the hard copy is stored.
To request an appointment, you may write, email or call the FOC. Individuals with appointments should go to FOC information desk on the 1st floor of the Gull Road Justice Complex and check in with the receptionist. Appointments are routinely scheduled for parties seeking assistance in child, spousal and medical support enforcement and related issues, support modification, and custody and parenting time matters.
The FOC information counter is found on the first floor of the Gull Road Justice Complex, Kalamazoo, MI. It is open from 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Mon.-Fri., excluding holidays. To preserve confidentiality, only one client is allowed at the information counter at a time; have a seat and you will be called to the window in a first come, first serve sequence.
Although every effort will be made to answer your questions on a walk-in basis, it may not be possible. You may be asked to document your problem in writing or to make an appointment if your questions are complicated, require in-depth analysis or detailed explanation.
Going to the Friend of the Court for services may be confusing. Most people are not familiar with how the court system works. To help you better understand the Friend of the Court and its services, an informational meeting is offered quarterly. We provide an overview of the Friend of the Court Office, how it may be able to help you, and what role the Friend of the Court has in child support, medical support, custody, and parenting time matters.
Place: Gull Road Justice Complex
2nd Floor – Room 2117
1536 Gull Road
Kalamazoo, MI 49048
When: Second Monday of January, April, July, October
Time: 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm
Your attendance at orientation will help you to better understand situations you are likely to encounter as you work with the Friend of the Court Office now and in the future.
To start a domestic relations matter, a person must file the correct papers in the circuit court according to specific rules (Michigan Court Rules). There may be many complicated issues or rules involved in a domestic relations case. Although the court cannot require a party to use an attorney to start or respond to an action, it is usually advisable to have an attorney who is knowledgeable about specific statutes and court rules file the correct papers.
Every case begins with the Plaintiff (also called a "party"), filing a complaint or petition that asks the court to grant an order. For example, a complaint may ask the court to grant a divorce, order child support or spousal support (alimony), start an out-of-state support collection effort, or grant an order for custody of a child. The Defendant is a party against whom the complaint is filed. Once a person is designated as Plaintiff or Defendant, the designation does not change. The designation of Plaintiff and Defendant does not imply that one party is right and the other is wrong. It simply tells the court who started the case.
Michigan Court Rules provide that the Defendant be served with a copy of the complaint and summons and if child support or spousal support is requested, a copy of this handbook. The summons is a document that legally requires the Defendant to answer the complaint. The summons and complaint must be delivered to the Defendant so that he or she has notice that a case has been filed. Normally it is the Plaintiff's responsibility to serve the required documents on the other party. This service requirement also applies to other matters that you may bring before the court after the divorce is completed.
Defendant's Answer to Complaint
If the Defendant does not file an answer to the complaint within the time permitted (usually 21 days), the Defendant may be determined to be in "default." This means that the Defendant could lose the right to have his or her concerns heard by the court, and could result in the court entering an order giving the Plaintiff everything requested in the complaint.
Hearings before a Domestic Relations Referee are held at the Gull Road Justice Complex located at 1536 Gull Road, Kalamazoo, MI. Hearings before a judge will generally be held in the Gull Road Justice Complex, but some may be held at the Michigan Avenue Courthouse at 227 W. Michigan, Kalamazoo, MI. Be sure to carefully read your notice or order for the correct time, date and location of the hearing you are to attend. If you have questions, contact your attorney or the court that issued the notice or order (see also Rights and Responsibilities section).
A person wanting to end his or her marriage must have a circuit court judge enter an order ending the marriage. To grant the divorce, the court must find that there has been a breakdown in the marriage relationship to the extent that the parties cannot live together as husband and wife. At least one of the parties must appear in court to show that this breakdown exists. In Michigan, a divorce can be granted even if one of the parties does not want the divorce.
A divorce ends the legal relationship between a husband and wife. The divorce does not end the parental relationship, even though the relationship will change. Many decisions must be made before a divorce is granted. These decisions may include:
- Who will make the major decisions for the child? (legal custody)
- How much time will children spend with each parent? (physical custody and parenting time)
- How should the property gathered during the marriage be divided? (property settlement)
- How will financial responsibilities for the children be divided? (child support)
- What amount, if any, should one party contribute toward the support of the other, either permanently or temporarily? (spousal support/alimony)
- How will the children's medical, dental and other health care expenses be paid? (health care insurance and financial coverage)
- Will the wife take back her maiden name? (restoration of maiden name)
- Will children be allowed to move from the State of Michigan? (domicile)
- Will the custodial parent be allowed to move the children more than 100 miles from their current place of residence? (legal residence)
Divorce issues may be resolved in the following ways:
- The parties may be able to reach an agreement by themselves or with the help of their attorneys.
- Mediation is available through the FOC and private agencies to resolve the issues of custody and parenting time. In the Ninth Circuit, mediation of contested matters is the usual practice.
- A domestic relations referee may hear the issues and make a recommendation to the judge.
- The judge may help in settling a matter by having a pretrial or settlement conference.
- The judge will hold a hearing or trial on the issues that have not been resolved.
Copies of all papers filed in a case must be given to the court clerk at the Gull Road Justice Complex by the person bringing the action or by his/her attorney. Court rules require that the FOC be provided with a copy of any legal paper and a proof of service of all papers filed in a domestic relations matter. The person bringing the action must provide an extra copy for the FOC to the court clerk. Custody, parenting time and child support recommendations will be made by the FOC upon order of the judge.
Ex Parte Orders (Orders entered by the court without a hearing)
Sometimes a judge will immediately enter a child support, parenting time or custody order upon the request of one of the parties. This happens if the judge is convinced that a serious need exists, or that serious harm may occur if the order is not entered immediately. This order is called an ex parte order. If the other party disagrees with the ex parte order, after the judge signs the order, that party must file a written objection to the order asking that the order be changed or canceled.
The ex parte order must contain a notice that the other party is allowed to file a written objection or motion to change the order within 14 days. If a party wants to file an objection and the FOC cannot help the parties to resolve the dispute, the FOC can provide forms and instructions to assist the other party to file the objection.
The ex parte order must also state that it will become a temporary order if no written objection or motion is filed within 14 days. If a motion is not filed within 14 days, the order automatically becomes a temporary order. This order is also modifiable by the court but different, more demanding standards apply.
After the complaint has been filed, matters such as temporary custody, parenting time, amount of child support, and in some cases, spousal support (alimony), need to be decided. Either party or in some cases, the FOC or the Prosecutor, may file a motion with the court asking for orders. If a hearing before a referee or judge is scheduled, the party who schedules the hearing must follow the provisions of Michigan Court Rules and notify the other party of the time and place. At the hearing, each party can present his or her position to the court.
The decision made at that hearing by the court is written down by one of the attorneys or parties. This is given to the judge for entry (signing the order), and made an order of the court. For more information on ex parte and temporary orders, see Michigan Court Rule 3.207.
NOTE: Only a judge can enter orders or judgments; a referee can hear motions, but can only recommend orders to the judge. An order does not become effective until a judge signs it.
Not every divorce matter that is started ends in divorce. If the parties are attempting to work out their differences and wish to have enforcement of their court orders suspended, they must file a motion with the court and obtain an order to suspend automatic enforcement of support. A support order cannot be suspended or dismissed except by court order. Forms are available at the FOC office to assist parties who wish to suspend enforcement of support and who are representing themselves.
If a domestic relations matter is filed with the court and no further action takes place, the court clerk will place the case on the no progress calendar and it will be dismissed after a period of time passes.
If the parties have resolved their differences and wish to stop the divorce action, they must file an order of dismissal with the circuit court and provide a copy to the FOC. Plans to pay any back child support owed to the State of Michigan must be made with the FOC.
Judgment of Divorce
A judgment contains the orders of the court concerning support, parenting time, custody, property division and other related issues.
For divorces with no minor child(ren) there is a sixty-day waiting period (starting from the date of filing the complaint) before a judgment can be entered. For divorces where there are minor children there is a six-month waiting period before a judgment can be entered.
After the waiting period is over the judge may grant a divorce. Once a judgment has been entered, parties must comply with the provisions of that judgment. The judge can change some of the sections in the divorce judgment after it has been entered.
If a party is dissatisfied with the judgment, he or she may wish to contact an attorney to see if it can be changed.
Modification of a Judgment
After a judgment has been entered in a divorce action, there are some orders that can be modified (changed). These can include: custody, parenting time, support, and domicile. A change can occur if:
a) both parties sign an agreement (stipulation and consent order), file a petition requesting and explaining the reason for the change, and the court enters an order granting a change;
b) a motion or petition is filed, a hearing is held, and the court enters an order granting a change.
The FOC has a responsibility to petition the court in certain circumstances for the modification of child support (see section on Modification of Support Orders).
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 (DHHS) 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 DHHS. 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 DHHS 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 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. 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 is the legal identification of a child's father when the parents are not married. Generally, either parent or the DHHS 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 DHHS. The DHHS 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.
Child support orders remain in effect wherever you live. If the parent who is ordered to pay support leaves the State of Michigan, he or she must continue to pay support through the FOC to MiSDU (see Making Payments section). Failure to obey the support order could have serious consequences.
If either parent leaves Michigan, it does not mean that the support obligation ends. If support payments are not timely, or stop altogether, there are laws between each state to assure that payments are made. Laws to enforce support include:
Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA)
UIFSA assists states in dealing with cases where a party or source of income is in another state. Under UIFSA, only one state has the right to establish or modify support. This right can be given to another state only if certain conditions are met (such as both parents and the children move out of the state that entered the original order).
If you know that the support payer in your case has moved to another state, contact the FOC to determine whether you can obtain assistance under UIFSA. Some of the procedures available under UIFSA follow:
Interstate Income Withholding
This process allows the FOC to send a notice directly to an employer in another state, requiring the employer to deduct child support and send it to the FOC. If the employer fails to withhold the support, the income withholding order can be registered in the other state. The other state can then assist in getting the employer to withhold the support.
Registration of the Michigan Court Order for Enforcement
The FOC or a private attorney can help with this process. Registration for enforcement allows another state to take the Michigan order and enforce the full amount of support as if it were that state's own order.
Registration for Modification
When Michigan or another state no longer has jurisdiction to modify the support order (e.g., neither party nor the child lives in the state that issued the order), and the order needs modification, the order may be registered in the state where the other party lives.
Assistance with Discovery in another State
UIFSA provides some assistance in obtaining information needed for support hearings if one of the parties lives in another state. See the FOC office for more information regarding what assistance is available.
Revised Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support (RURESA) Action
RURESA preceded UIFSA. It was an interstate law, which allowed establishment and enforcement of child support orders in the state where the support payer lived. If a RURESA order was established in your case, it will continue to be enforced. Modifications must comply with the requirements of UIFSA.
Each party has the right to:
- Expect the FOC office to perform the duties listed in this pamphlet as the "FOC". Duties and tasks listed as "MiCSES" or "MiSDU" are not controlled by the FOC office.
- Request the FOC office to explain its procedures.
- Be treated with courtesy by FOC employees.
- File a grievance with the FOC office concerning an employee or office procedure.
- Consult an attorney regarding questions or concerns.
Each party has the responsibility to:
- Inform the FOC, in writing, of the following information:
- Current address
- Current income status or source of income
- Current children's residence
- Current information regarding health care coverage
- Provide information to the FOC office to assist it in carrying out its duties as required by law.
- Obey all orders of the court until changed by the court.
- Keep appointments made with the FOC office, or take the time to reschedule an appointment.
- Treat the FOC employees with courtesy.
- Treat the judge, court employees and attorneys with fairness, respect and courtesy.
- Monitor your own behavior, attitudes and comments to ensure that you do not display race, ethnic, religious affiliation or gender bias.
As a citizen using the court you have a right to:
- Be treated with fairness, respect and courtesy.
- Expect court proceedings to be conducted in an orderly manner.
- Expect un-biased treatment from judges, court employees and attorneys.
- Object to gender or racially biased statements or remarks made by judges, court employees or attorneys.
- Expect that the judges and attorneys are prepared to try your case.
- Consult with an attorney regarding a legal proceeding.
- Ask questions of your attorney before or after you appear in court. If you are representing yourself, you may ask the court for clarification on an action or procedure.
- Request that the court provide an interpreter if you are unable to communicate in English or are hearing impaired.
If You Have a Hearing
- Arrive at the hearing room or courtroom about 15 minutes before the scheduled time on the date of the hearing. Bring your witnesses with you to the hearing. Be prepared to spend most of the morning or afternoon in court.
- Clothing for a court appearance should be neat, clean attire suitable to a business environment. Inappropriate attire includes t‑shirts with swear words, depicting violence or sexual acts, promoting drug or alcohol use; halter/tank tops; muscle shirts; undergarments worn as outer garments; shorts; jeans or cut‑off jeans; baggy pants which fall below the hips; micro‑mini skirts; clothing with holes/patches that are part of the design or construction of the garment; exercise or sportswear; and hats (except those worn for religious purposes). If the referee/judge decides that attire is inappropriate for court appearances, the offending person may be asked to leave the court and return in more appropriate attire.
Alternate Dispute Resolution
If you are a party to an action and have a dispute that you cannot resolve between you and the other party or parties, you are encouraged to participate in alternative dispute resolution.
Typically, when parties go to court, the judge, based upon available evidence and according to law, makes decisions affecting their family. Parties often feel that going to court and having a judge make the decision results in a sense of loss, because someone not directly affected by the outcome makes decisions. Alternative dispute resolution places the responsibility for settling issues upon parties, without the direct involvement of the court. Alternative dispute resolution may involve parents, grandparents, and even third parties. The decision-making power remains in the hands of people who have a personal interest in, and knowledge of, that family, and not with the judge or another third party.
You may contact an attorney or the FOC office to determine the types of alternative dispute resolution methods available. Some are listed below.
Alternative Dispute Resolution may include:
Friend of the Court Domestic Relations Mediation: By law, the FOC is required to offer formal mediation services whenever there is a dispute regarding custody or parenting time. Mediation provides parents with the opportunity to communicate, cooperate, and, with the assistance of a neutral third party, resolve any disputes regarding custody or parenting time. The Kalamazoo County Friend of the Court/Ninth Circuit Court may contract with specific agencies or individuals for the provision of these services.
If you have a dispute regarding custody or parenting time that you cannot resolve you are encouraged to contact the FOC and participate in mediation.
Participation in FOC domestic relations mediation of custody or parenting time is voluntary. Both parties must be willing to participate. If you reach an agreement, the mediator can put it into writing. You may review this agreement with your attorneys. If both parties agree, the agreement will be put in the form of a court order, signed by the judge, and entered with the court clerk.
Matters discussed during a formal mediation are confidential. An FOC employee who acts as a mediator in your case cannot share information about what happened during mediation, except for the signed agreement reached. In addition, an FOC employee who acts as a mediator in your case cannot enforce or investigate any issues regarding your case.
Court Rule Domestic Relations Mediation: The court may refer family matters to mediation under the provisions of MCR 3.216. This referral may occur when the parties agree to mediation, upon written motion of one of the parties, or upon the direction of the court.
Parties must attend the mediation sessions and may be accompanied by their attorneys. Any information shared with the mediator is considered privileged and the mediator may not disclose this information during any future proceedings or at trial.
If an agreement is reached during mediation, that agreement must be reduced to writing and signed by the parties and their attorneys. The parties must take necessary steps to have the mediation agreement entered as an order of the court.
If no agreement is reached during mediation, then within 21 days, the mediator must prepare a report to the parties, their attorneys and the mediation clerk summarizing the essential facts and include any recommendations on issues. Unless the parties resolved a custody issue during mediation the mediator may not make a recommendation on custody.
If both parties accept the mediator's recommendation, the parties must take necessary steps to have the recommendation entered as an order.
If either party rejects the mediator's recommendation, even in part, the case will go to a hearing. The court may not take the mediator's report and recommendation into consideration at the hearing.
An individual who performs Court Rule Domestic Relations Mediation is entitled to charge a reasonable fee for this service. These fees are usually split equally between the parties.
A number of custody arrangements are possible. The most common are:
Joint Legal Custody: Means that the parents will communicate and cooperate with one another to reach mutual decisions about major issues affecting their children. This includes, but is not limited to major medical decisions, educational decisions and religious upbringing, if any.
Joint Physical Custody: Means that a child lives with one parent part of the time and with the other parent part of the time. This does not mean that the time spent with each parent must be equal.
During the time a child is with a parent, that parent is responsible for the routine decisions regarding that child.
Split Custody: Means that one or more of the minor children live with one parent and one or more other minor children live with the other parent.
Sole (Primary Physical) Custody: Means that the child lives primarily with one parent. Generally, the other parent receives parenting time with the child
A custody order specifies with whom a child shall live. Parents are encouraged to reach their own agreements about custody. When parents cannot agree, the judge will decide.
In deciding custody, the court must consider all of the following factors of the Michigan Child Custody Act:
- The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parties involved and the child.
- The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to give the child love, affection, and guidance and continuation of the educating and the raising of the child in its religion or creed, if any.
- The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care or other remedial care recognized and permitted under the laws of this state in place of medical care, and other material needs.
- The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
- The permanence as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes.
- The moral fitness of the parties involved.
- The mental and physical health of the parties involved.
- The home, school, and community record of the child.
- The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient age to express preference.
- The willingness and ability of each of the parents to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent.
- Domestic violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed against, or witnessed by the child.
- Any other factor considered by the court to be relevant to a particular child custody dispute.
1. How do I get an order for custody?
A petition must be filed asking the court to grant you custody of your child. Both parents must agree and sign an agreement (stipulation and consent order). That agreement, if approved by the court, will be entered as a custody order.
2. How do I change an existing order for custody?
A petition must be filed and a hearing held before a custody order can be changed. However, a hearing is unnecessary if the parents sign a written agreement changing custody (stipulation and consent order) that is approved by the FOC and the judge.
3. Do I need to have an attorney to get custody?
It is not required that you have an attorney to file a petition for custody. You may file your own petition, known as a Pro Per or Pro Se petition. The FOC will provide you with forms and instructions if you wish to file a custody motion without having an attorney. However, the judge will require you to follow the same court rules that an attorney must follow. There are many complicated issues involved in a custody case. Therefore, you may want to have an attorney represent you. The FOC may not file a petition for custody for you or provide you with an attorney.
4. Is there any way the court can assist parties in reaching an agreement on custody?
The FOC provides domestic relations mediation. Mediation is a process whereby a neutral third party assists in voluntarily settling a custody dispute. Both parties must agree to participate in this process. The court may order parties to receive counseling.
5. Can my child enroll in the school district I live in even though the child lives with the other parent most of the time?
Michigan law provides that a child may enroll in a school district where either parent resides; without regard to which parent has custody. If a child regularly resides in two school districts as a result of a joint custody order, the child may attend school in either or both districts.
6. After a custody petition has been filed, if we cannot reach an agreement, what can the FOC do?
If the court refers you to the FOC, the FOC will:
- Offer mediation services to the parties.
- Conduct an investigation and file a written report and recommendation to the court based on the factors listed in the Michigan Child Custody Act. The Kalamazoo County Friend of the Court/Ninth Circuit Court may contract with specific agencies or individuals for the provision of these services.
7. Do I have the right to receive a copy of the FOC report and recommendation on custody?
Yes. Before the court takes any action on a FOC custody recommendation, the FOC must provide to each party or their attorney a copy of the report recommendation.
8. What will happen if I have an order for custody and the other parent does not return the child to me as stated in the court order?
You have several choices; you may contact:
- The police to assist you.
- The prosecuting attorney and request that a kidnapping charge be pursued if you have reason to believe that the other parent intends to keep the child. The prosecuting attorney acts only on police reports; therefore, you must go to the police first.
- Your attorney for assistance.
- The FOC and request that they enforce your order by taking action to bring the issue back before the court.
Parenting Time Orders
A parenting time order establishes parenting time between a parent and child. The Child Custody Act (M.C.L. 722.27A) requires that parenting time be granted to serve the best interests of the child. If the parents agree on parenting time terms, the court must order and approve the parenting time agreement unless the court determines on the record that agreement is not in the best interest of the child. A child has a right to parenting time with a parent unless it is shown on the record by clear and convincing evidence that the parenting time would endanger the child's physical, mental or emotional health. When a child resides with a parent, that parent decides all routine matters concerning that child.
The Michigan Child Custody Act states that the judge may consider the following factors when determining the frequency, duration and type of parenting time granted:
- The existence of any special circumstances or needs of the child.
- Whether the child is a nursing child less than six months old, or less than 1 year old if the child receives substantial nutrition through nursing.
- The reasonable likelihood of abuse or neglect of the child during parenting time.
- The reasonable likelihood of abuse of a parent resulting from the exercise of parenting time.
- The inconvenience to, and burdensome impact or effect on the child of traveling to and from parenting time.
- Whether a parent can reasonably expect to exercise parenting time as ordered by the court.
- Whether a parent has frequently failed to exercise parenting time as ordered by the court.
- The threatened or actual detention of the child with the intent to conceal the child from the person who has legal custody of the child. A custodial parent's temporary residence with the child in a domestic violence shelter shall not be construed as evidence of the custodial parent's intent to retain or conceal the child from the other parent.
The FOC assists parents in resolving parenting time denials and concerns primarily through written communications. These matters should be reported to the FOC through a letter of complaint (a form is available from our office) within 56 days of the alleged violation. The complaint should include the following information:
- What has been the normal schedule of parenting time?
- What was the date and length of last visit?
- What was the date of denial of parenting time?
- What was the reason given for denial and reasons you believe parenting time was denied?
- What other factors have contributed to the parenting time problem?
- Was there discussion of an alternate time for the parenting time to occur or an arrangement for a make-up parenting time?
If the FOC has reason to believe that the parenting time order has been violated, the office may:
- Write the parents requesting more information or informing them of their legal obligations under the court's order.
- Refer the parties to a mediator if they agree to mediation.
If the above options are not successful, the FOC may do the following:
Begin a civil contempt proceeding with the court by filing a petition for an order to show cause.
At the time of this hearing, the parent who is ordered to appear in court is required to "show cause" why he or she is not obeying the court order concerning parenting time. If the court decides that a parent has violated the court order, the court can order make-up parenting time, payment of fines, suspension of licenses, and/or incarceration in the county jail.
Parenting Time Modification Actions started by Parties
An individual may file a motion for a change in an existing parenting time order without hiring an attorney. This is known as Pro Per or Pro Se parenting time modification. The FOC will provide forms and instructions to any party who wishes to file this type of motion. A party may also contact an attorney to file a motion to change parenting time.
If both parties agree to change the parenting time order in a way that benefits their child, they may sign an agreement stating the terms of the agreement. If that agreement is put in the form of an order, it can be signed by the Judge and filed with the court clerk to become the new court order.
1. My parenting time order states I have "reasonable parenting time rights." What does this mean?
Reasonable parenting time rights can vary greatly from case to case, taking into consideration the parents' schedules and the ages or needs of the child. What is reasonable in one situation may not be reasonable in another. Most frequently, however, a regular pattern of parenting time is established. The Kalamazoo County 9th Circuit Court has established a policy to define reasonable parenting time. That policy includes the following parenting time:
School Year Parenting Time
- Alternate weekends from Friday at 6:00 p.m. to Sunday at 6:00 p.m.
- Each Wednesday evening from 6:00 p.m. to 8 p.m. (distance between parents permitting).
Summer Parenting Time - Parenting time for one-half of the summer vacation (defined more specifically in the parenting time policy).
Spring Break Parenting Time – Parenting time to be alternated between the parents each year.
Winter Holiday Break – to be shared evenly, alternating the first or second half of the break each year.
Holidays – are to be alternated and include:
Easter, Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and the New Year's holiday (defined more specifically in the parenting time policy).
Children's Birthdays – are to be alternated between the parents.
Father's Day/Mother's Day – The children should be with the father each year on Father's Day and with the mother each year on Mother's Day.
Other Reasonable Parenting Time – is defined in the Kalamazoo County Parenting Time Policy. For a copy of the complete policy, contact or go to the Friend of the Court office.
Parents are encouraged to be flexible about parenting time. Recognize that your schedules as parents will change, and your child's schedule and needs will also change as your child grows. You will have to talk to each other about parenting time for the benefit of your child. If you cannot mutually agree to a parenting time schedule or believe your order should be changed:
- Contact the other party to see if he or she will agree to mediate.
- File a petition on your own behalf or contact an attorney to help you file a petition to request a different parenting time order.
2. Does the court make any assumptions about parenting time that are not stated in the order?
Yes. Unless the parties agree otherwise, the court normally assumes that:
- Parenting time will occur in a regular, consistent manner.
- Parents will cooperate in the best interests of the child, will be sensitive to the child's needs and wishes, and will be flexible in working out needed alterations in the parenting time routine.
- The "visiting parent" will provide any needed transportation for the visits.
- Holiday parenting time and other specified times take precedence over the regular weekend rotation.
Judges may make exceptions depending upon the specifics of each case.
3. I have a specific parenting time schedule that I need to change. What can I do?
If you need a temporary change in your parenting time schedule, contact the other parent to discuss making other arrangements. Agreed changes should be in writing and signed by both parents. Each parent should have a copy of the signed agreement. An agreement by the parties without a court order is not enforceable. If no agreement between the parties is reached, you must follow the existing court order or file a petition asking that the order be changed.
If you need to make a long-term change:
- You and the other parent can agree to a change and a revised order (stipulation and consent order).
- The FOC can provide mediation services, if both parties agree to mediate.
- You can file a petition with the court for a change in the order, either on your own behalf or with the help of an attorney.
4. If the visiting parent is not making regular child support payments, do I have to allow parenting time?
Yes. Parenting time and support are separate orders of the court, with separate enforcement procedures. Violation of the terms of the order by one parent does not permit violation of the order by the other parent.
5. The other party is not following the parenting time order (I.E., child is not ready for parenting time; child is picked up and/or returned late, etc). What can I do?
File a written Parenting Time Complaint with the FOC office (FOC can provide the form). If the FOC determines that either parent has violated the parenting time order, they will start appropriate enforcement action.
6. Clothing is not sent for or returned from parenting time. Is there anything the FOC can do?
The FOC does not have any power to require the parent to provide or return clothing.
7. Do I have to let my child go for parenting time if it appears that the other parent has been drinking or using drugs?
That is your decision. If you make the decision to deny parenting time in these circumstances, you may be asked to explain why you felt your decision was in the best interest of the child. For a persistent situation the best procedure is to consult with your attorney, if you have one; and perhaps file a petition with the court requesting guidance. If the other parent disputes your claim that they were drinking or using drugs and files a complaint with the FOC, you may be required to explain to the FOC or the court why you denied parenting time to the other parent. You will then be required to establish that there was an apparent danger to the child that caused you to deny the scheduled parenting time.
8. I am concerned about the other parent discussing changes in the court orders with the child. What can the FOC do?
The FOC cannot prevent the other parent from discussing court orders with the children.
9. The FOC refused to enforce my parenting time order. What can I do?
The law requires the FOC to enforce parenting time orders, in most cases. If FOC personnel refuse to comply with the law, you have a right to file a grievance regarding FOC operations with the FOC.
10. Does the FOC have a responsibility to investigate alleged abuse and/or neglect of a child?
No. The FOC is not responsible for investigating child abuse or neglect. Allegations of abuse or neglect should be reported to the Children's Protective Services unit of your local Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) office.
11. I have a parenting time order, and my teenage child does not want to come for parenting time. What can I do?
The parents of the child are bound by the court orders. However, you may consider one or more of the following:
- You may want to see if you can work out a different parenting time arrangement with the child and the other parent.
- You can file a petition with the court requesting a change in your parenting time order.
- You can request that the FOC enforce your parenting time order.
12. I want to take the child on a trip, but it's the other parent's weekend. What can I do?
Parents are encouraged to follow a regular parenting time schedule pursuant to the provisions of the order. If the regular schedule cannot be followed because of extraordinary circumstances, you should arrange an alternate parenting time period.
It is best to get agreed changes in writing signed by both parents. If you cannot agree to a change in the schedule, then you are to abide by the current court order.
A referee or judge may order make-up parenting time on a case depending upon the circumstances involved and the facts presented.
A support order means any order entered by the circuit court that requires the payment of support. Support may include:
- Child support
- Spousal support (alimony)
- Expenses of medical, dental and other health care
- Health insurance premiums
- Child care expenses
- Birthing expenses (previously called confinement expense)
- Educational expenses.
In 1975, the U. S. Congress established the IV-D child support program in an effort to coordinate services and benefits available to families with dependent children. This program expanded the support enforcement options to include such tools as income tax refund offset and federal parent locator.
IV-D services are provided by the FOC and the Prosecutor in Michigan. To receive IV-D services the parent can complete the Verified Statement and IV-D Application Form obtained from the FOC office, Prosecuting Attorney's office or a DHHS support specialist.
The IV-D program can provide assistance with:
- Establishment of a child support order
- Support enforcement
- Reviews and modifications
- Paternity establishment (prosecuting attorney through DHHS)
- Absent parent locating
Support Investigations and Reports
The FOC is required periodically to review child support provisions, including health care and file a motion for a change in the order if a change is warranted. When reviewing support, the FOC office may request information from a parent's employer, including the parent's address, social security number, birth date, wages earned, and dependent health care coverage available as a benefit of employment.
If ordered by the court, the FOC will conduct a financial investigation and make a written report and recommendation to the parties and the court regarding child support. FOC reports cannot be used as evidence in court without the agreement of both parties. However, the FOC investigator may be called as a witness to testify about the report and recommendation. The Judge may read the report whether or not the parties agree.
Child Support Formula
State and federal law require that a child support formula be used in making recommendations and orders for child support amounts. The FOC and judges may deviate from using the guideline if they determine that use of the guideline would result in an unjust or inappropriate order. Reasons for deviation must be set forth in a report and recommendation by the FOC and on the record or in writing by the court.
In Michigan, a child support formula has been developed which considers both the non-custodial and custodial parent's income.
Surcharge on Overdue Support
As of January 1, 2011, a court order will be required for a surcharge to be assessed on a child support docket. A judge must find a payer has failed to pay support under a support order and that failure was willful before ordering the assessment of a surcharge.
Any surcharge collected for support due to the custodial parent, will be paid to that parent. Any amounts due to the State of Michigan will incur a surcharge payable to the State of Michigan.
Enforcement of Support
The FOC may begin enforcement action against a payer whose arrearage is in an amount equal to at least one month of support.
The FOC has many options available to enforce delinquent support orders. These options include:
Immediate Income Withholding Orders
An income withholding order requires the payer's employer or other source of income to withhold support from the payer for the payment of support obligations. All support orders issued in Michigan must provide for an order of income withholding. The law requires income withholding be immediately effective except in rare, specifically defined instances.
Even in these exceptional instances, withholding will be implemented where arrearage in an amount equal to one month of support accumulates.
If the payer lives out-of-state and gets behind in making his or her support payments, the FOC may begin an interstate income withholding action.
All support orders must provide for immediate income withholding. It does not matter whether the support is behind or not; withholding is automatic without regard to whether an arrearage exists. The support amount is taken directly from a payer's check in a manner similar to income tax and social security payments.
It may take several weeks for the income withholding to go into effect, i.e. for an employer to begin making deductions from a paycheck. Until the withholding begins, it is the responsibility of the payer to make payments directly to the FOC (in cash or cashier's check) so that no arrearage builds up. If an overpayment occurs, it will be returned to the payer only if the account balance is paid one month in advance; otherwise it will be credited to your account.
In some limited situations, the parties may agree in writing not to have income withholding take effect. The court also has authority to delay income withholding if the Judge finds that it would not be in the best interests of the child for withholding to occur.
Show Cause Hearing
If an order for income withholding is not effective, the FOC may begin a civil contempt proceeding by filing a petition with the court for an order to show cause which will require the payer to appear in court. This is called a "show cause hearing" because it provides the person accused of violating the Court's order the chance to "show cause", i.e. explain to the court why he or she should not be held in contempt of court for the alleged violation of the order.
If a show cause hearing is held and the payer appears, the Judge or Referee will decide whether the person is in contempt and what action should be taken. The payer of support has a right to be represented by an attorney. If it appears that the court may incarcerate the payer, the court is required to appoint an attorney for payers who can't afford one and requests one.
If the show cause hearing is held and the payer does not appear, a rrant for the payer's arrest will be issued. Once the court issues a rrant, the responsibility for the payer's arrest lies with the local law enforcement agencies. The FOC staff has no authority to arrest anyone. A rrant for failure to appear at a contempt of court hearing is only valid within Michigan.
Income Tax Offset
If an arrearage exists, an income tax refund offset will be requested for cases that qualify (under federal law for arrears over $500, and for state arrears over $150). A tax offset means that any tax refund owed to a payer is sent to MiSDU in Lansing and applied to the support arrearage owed to either the custodial parent or the State. If your case/docket qualifies, you will receive a notice. If you have been misidentified and are not the payer or if the arrearage amount falls below the threshold ($150 for the State, $500 Federal), follow the instructions on the notice to obtain an Administrative review.
Federal regulations and State Court Administrative Office (SCAO) guidelines require that all cases meeting eligibility requirements for federal or state income tax refund offset be submitted for offset to the appropriate tax agency.
Federal law and regulations require that past due support owed to the state must be paid from any federal tax refund before the tax refund may be used to pay past due support owed to a recipient of support. State regulations require that past due support owed to the recipient must be paid with state tax refunds before the refunds may be used to apply to arrears due to the state.
Payers' tax refunds can be taken by both the state and federal governments, if arrears warrant it. Sometimes a payer of support has a debt to the state and/or federal government for back taxes. Payment of these debts may be taken from the payers tax refund before any tax refund is sent to the FOC to pay past due support.
If the payer has remarried and has filed a joint federal tax return, money from the offset of the tax refund may be held for up to six months before processing. The recipient is liable for the return of amounts paid to him or her in error, including those adjusted due to a payer and his or her current spouse filing an amended federal tax return to obtain the spouse's share of a joint refund.
Recipients of support who apply for and receive Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) agree to give the state certain rights to past due support owed to them at the time their TANF begins. They also agree to give the state support which becomes due while TANF continues; this is required by Federal law and state regulations as a condition of receiving TANF.
If the recipient of support receives Medicaid benefits, medical support may be directed to the State during the term in which the recipient is receiving those benefits.
In some cases, the FOC may be able to obtain a lien on a payer's property. A lien may be imposed when:
- There have been many lapses in payments; or
- A large arrearage exists; or
- Efforts to collect current support are successful, but efforts to collect arrearage have not been successful; or
- The youngest child is over 18 and arrearage cannot be collected in a reasonable period of time; or
- The person owing the money would benefit from not having a lien imposed.
- For more information, write the Support Enforcement unit of the FOC.
A cash bond is a payment of a specific amount of money to guarantee future support payments will be made. A cash bond may be required when there is a large arrearage or a history that shows the payer cannot be relied upon to keep support payments current; or where the payer has threatened to sell assets to avoid payment of future support.
Real property is used as collateral.
Property Seizure and Withholding
Property of the payer may be seized and liquidated or sold, with the proceeds applied to the child support debt.
Financial Institution Data Match (FIDM)
When the qualifying arrearage threshold of 12 months of current support or $2500 for arrears-only cases is met, then FIDM (the process of matching delinquent payers against records of their financial accounts) can be used. Accounts subject to Data Match and seizure include:
- Checking accounts
- Savings accounts
- Time Deposit accounts
- Money Market Mutual Fund accounts
Effective October 1, 2006, payers may be submitted for the Passport Denial program when their arrears balance reaches $2500. Once in the program, the payer remains there until all arrears are paid to zero.
Credit Bureau Reporting
The federal criterion for credit bureau referral is two months of support arrears or $1,000 in arrears-only cases. Qualifying cases are selected and sent a letter informing the obligor of the intent to report. Once the system reports late payment information to a credit bureau agency it will continue monthly reporting until the debt is paid in full. Once the arrearage balance is zero, the agency is automatically notified that they are to remove the member from further reporting.
Payers who have arrears greater than two months may be selected to have their occupational, recreational or driver's licenses suspended. A Payer can avoid a license suspension by showing the arrearage is less than two months of support, or by entering into an agreement acceptable to the court for the payment of the past due support.
If a support arrearage has accrued and there is reason to believe that the payer transferred title or ownership of real or personal property for less than the property was worth the FOC may seek to have the transfer of ownership set aside.
The Friend of the Court may refer a case to the County Prosecutor after the Enforcement Officer assigned to the case determines it meets the necessary criteria for referral. The Enforcement Officer must determine that all other child support collection methods have not been successful. Additional considerations, including how much child support arrears are owed, may be determined by the Prosecuting Attorney's Office. After a thorough review and investigation, the County Prosecuting Attorney may charge the person with Felony Non-Support. The case may also be referred to the Michigan Attorney General for Felony Non-Support prosecution.
The FOC will review child support orders once every 36 months. Review and Modification Eligibility Notices will automatically be sent when your case is eligible and it is up to you to respond if you wish to have your support amount reviewed. The Friend of the Court may initiate a support review on its own initiative at any time if there is a change of circumstances as defined by MCL 552.517.
Within 180 days after determining that a review is required, the FOC office will conduct a review, and obtain modification of the order, if appropriate.
If the FOC determines that no change of the order is warranted, then within 30 days of the determination the office shall advise the parties. If either party objects, a hearing will be scheduled before the court on the objection.
Parents often are unaware of the true financial condition of the other parent. Recommendations made under the Michigan Child Support Formula are based upon the income of both parents. A request from the custodial parent for an increase in child support could result in a decrease in child support if the non-custodial parent's income has declined. Similarly, a request for a decrease in child support could result in an increase in support under some circumstances. Before asking for a modification review, be aware that the results may not be what you want or expect if the facts do not support your position.
Threshold for Modification
A minimum threshold has been established for child support to be changed. The threshold is 10% of the ordered amount or $50.00 per month, whichever is greater.
If the difference between the current amount and the proposed amount is greater than 10% of the existing order or $50.00 per month, the FOC will petition for a change.
If the difference between the current amount and the proposed amount is not at least 10% of the existing order or $50.00 per month, the FOC is not required to petition for a change. The FOC or either party may still file for a change even if the threshold is not met.
Support Modification Actions Started by Parties
A party can file a motion for a change in their support order. The FOC has forms and instructions available if a party is interested in filing a motion on their own behalf. Any change in support may be retroactive to the date that notice of the petition was given to the opposite party. A party may also contact an attorney to file a motion for a change in support.
If both parties agree to a change in the support order, they may sign an agreement (stipulation or consent order). This agreement will be entered as a support order if approved by the court.
Non-Retroactive Modification of Support
Michigan law does not allow child support to be modified retroactively; that is, support can only be modified for the future, not for payments that have already become due. Once child support is ordered or billed to your account, it is due and payable and usually cannot be changed.
Because of this, if your income changes, e.g. if you are a payer of support and you lose your job, you should immediately file a motion or otherwise start proceedings to have your support changed. Do not wait until you go back to work or otherwise regain an income. If you delay in filing a motion, you may be required to pay support that could have been ordered at a lower rate based upon your lower income.
Simply notifying the court or the FOC office that you are off work is not enough. You must file a motion before support can be changed. You can file a motion with the help of an attorney. You can also file a motion using forms available from the FOC office. Ask for the Support Modification packet.
If it has been more than 36 months since support was established or last changed, another way to seek to have your support changed is that you may request the FOC do a modification review.
An exception to the rule that support cannot be retroactively modified exists when a party knowingly and intentionally fails or refuses to report income, or knowingly misrepresents income that was required by the court to be reported to the FOC. This can be used to increase support retroactively if the payer does not report additional income, but in some cases could be used to reduce a support order if the recipient of support failed to report income.
1. How do I get an order for support?
A petition requesting the court to grant an order for support must be filed with the court even if the parties agree on the amount of support. If both parties sign an agreement (stipulation and consent order) that agreement will be entered as a support order if the court approves it. However, Michigan law requires that if the agreed amount differs from the amount that would be ordered under the Michigan Child Support Formula, specific information about the deviation must be stated in the order.
2. Do I need to have an attorney to get an order for support?
It is not required that you have an attorney to file a petition for support in a divorce action. However, an attorney may be helpful when filing papers and following specific rules. For paternity and family support actions, contact the DHHS for a referral to the Child Support Division of the Prosecuting Attorney's office.
3. Does the judge have to use the child support formula or the FOC recommendations when setting support orders?
In most instances, the answer is yes. The Child Support Formula and the FOC recommendation are used to assist the Judge in making a decision concerning support amounts. Deviation from the amount recommended by the Child Support Formula is usually not allowable. If the court decides to order an amount other than that recommended by the Child Support Formula, the court must state on the record its reasons for doing so.
4. If I have been paying my child support and the custodial parent is not allowing parenting time, do I have to keep paying support?
Yes. Parenting time and support are separate orders of the court, with separate enforcement procedures. Contact the FOC for assistance in enforcing your rights for parenting time.
5. The non-custodial parent is not paying support. What can I do?
Contact the Support Enforcement unit of the FOC and request enforcement if the person ordered to pay support is at least one month behind in support. You may also contact an attorney to file an enforcement action. You are not allowed to deny the other parent his or her parenting time. Parenting time and support are separate orders of the court, with separate enforcement procedures.
6. The payer of support is self-employed and not making his or her support payments. What can the FOC do?
Income withholding orders are not usually effective when a payer is self-employed. In these cases, the FOC may seek enforcement using one or more of the following options:
- Petition the court for a show cause hearing.
- Submit the payer's name for income tax refund offset.
- File a lien on the payer's property.
- Petition the court for a cash bond to be posted by the payer to guarantee future payments are made.
- Report the payer to consumer protection agencies.
- Initiate action to suspend a professional and/or Driver's License.
Contact the FOC office for further information concerning these options.
7. My court order states that I am to pay support through the FOC office (or MiSDU). Can I pay the support to the recipient directly?
No. In the Ninth Circuit Court there is a local court policy that mandates payment be made through the FOC, unless specific conditions are met and an order allows direct payments. Support is paid through MiSDU to keep an official record of all payments. If you want credit for payments made directly to the other party, you must get a court order that allows the FOC office to credit your account for a specific amount.
8. If the courts have ordered child support and either parent has a major increase or decrease in income, what can be done?
The Michigan Child Support Formula requires that the FOC consider both parents' income when making child support recommendations. If either party has had a large increase or decrease in income, they should contact the FOC to report this change.
If the parties both agree to change the support order, and they sign a written agreement (stipulation and consent order), that agreement will be entered as an order, if approved by the court, provided a petition has been filed and the proposed order submitted. However, Michigan law requires that if the agreed amount differs from the amount that would be ordered under the Michigan Child Support Formula, specific information about the deviation must be stated in the order.
9. If I am receiving public assistance do I still get child support?
No. All child support payments paid while you are receiving public assistance must be sent by MiSDU to the Michigan DHHS.
10. Is the FOC responsible for making sure that child support money is being spent on the child?
No. The law does not give the FOC the authority to verify how child support payments are spent.
11. What should I do if a private company contacts me and wants me to sign an agreement with them and pay them a fee so that they can help me get support?
Kalamazoo County has a Local Administrative Order about Private Child Support Collection #2001-009. The FOC office will send you a copy if you request it.
Change in Physical Custody
The Custody and Parenting Time unit of the FOC should be notified immediately if the non-custodial parent temporarily or permanently takes physical custody of the child. If you have a court order that requires you to pay child support and your child is placed or comes into your physical custody, the Order of Support does not automatically end. A support order cannot be suspended except by another court order.
When the FOC office gets notice from the party to whom the order has given physical custody that physical custody has changed, the FOC office will prepare a Notice of Redirection or Abatement of Child Support. This is mailed to both parties at their most recently reported address and gives parties 21 days to object to the abatement of support. There is a date on the notice stating when abatement will begin. If there is no objection, support will stop. If there is an objection, a notice of this objection will be sent to both parties explaining that there was an objection to the action. This will also advise the parties that they can file a motion with the 9th Circuit Court – Family Division if they wish to pursue the abatement.
When the FOC office gets a notice from either parent that the dependent on their case is now living with a third party a determination will be made as to whether that party is considered to be "legally responsible." To be legally responsible there must be guardianship papers, a court order, or a Power of Attorney signed by the custodial parent.
If the FOC cannot readily determine legal responsibility, a Denial of Request for Redirection or Abatement will be mailed to the party that made the request explaining that further documentation is needed. If the FOC determines that there is a change in legal responsibility, a Notice of Redirection or Abatement of Child Support will be sent to both parties giving them 21 days to object to the redirection. There is a date on the notice stating when redirection will begin. If there is no objection support will be redirected. If there is an objection, a notice of this objection will be sent to both parties explaining that there was an objection to the action. This will also advise the parties that they can file a motion with the 9th Circuit Court – Family Division if they wish to pursue the redirection.
At no time during this process does the FOC office have the authority to hold support payments. Payments must continue to be processed and sent as directed in the court's most recent order.
Once there has been a redirection or abatement of support there will be a referral to the modification department for a review of the current support order for a change in support or to recommend that both parties should be required to pay support.
Parenting Time Credit Requests
Unless specifically permitted by court order or agreed to in writing by the custodial parent, no parenting time credit will be given on an account. Parenting time must be submitted in writing to the FOC within six months of the last date of parenting time or as directed by the order. Requests submitted after that time will not be honored. This policy provides safeguards so the amounts submitted for tax offsets are correct.
The request for parenting time credit must include the specific beginning and ending dates of the parenting time (the pick-up day and the drop off day), case/docket number, payer's full name and telephone number, and information as to which children took part in the parenting time.
When the FOC receives written notice from one of the parties of parenting time, the dates are entered into MiCSES
The system generates a letter to both parties stating the request was received, the dates submitted for the abatement and the calculated credit. If there is no objection, the system will automatically advance to the next step.
Twenty-one days from the date of the letter, credit will be applied to the account for the amount listed in the letter. The system will check for arrears on this docket and also check any other dockets the non-custodial parent (NCP) may have. If arrears are found, the refund will be applied to those arrears rather than refunded to the NCP. If the credit is for more than the amount of those arrears, or there are no arrears, MiCSES will note the potential refund amount to the system to allow for refund payments to be made.
When payments come in, the system will look for any potential refund amounts. If there is a refund due, the system will disburse money based on federal guidelines. The system will apply payments to current support and refunds. It is important to understand that the refund will not necessarily be all in one check. The refund may come in partial payments spread out over many weeks depending on federal guidelines and what your order states.
When Child Support Ends
Support orders usually require payment of child support until the youngest child reaches the age of 18 or graduates from high school, whichever occurs later.
If ordered, support may continue beyond age 18 as long as the child is regularly attending high school on a full-time basis with a reasonable expectation of completing sufficient credits to graduate from high school while residing on a full-time basis with the recipient or at an institution, but in no case after the child reaches 19 years and 6 months of age. The FOC Office needs to be informed when a child is going to school after they turn 18. A letter from the child's school stating the child is attending school full time and the child's expected date of graduation is needed.
There are several circumstances that might terminate child support at an earlier date. The FOC should be notified, in writing, as soon as possible if one of the following or a similar situation occurs: the child no longer lives with the custodial parent, is adopted, marries, dies, becomes emancipated prior to the age of eighteen, or enters the armed forces. Documentation is required to substantiate the basis for the termination of support for any of these reasons.
As stated before, child support is a primary obligation. A child must be provided for even during periods of economic difficulty. When the payer becomes unemployed the FOC must be notified immediately. The payer should provide answers to the following in writing:
- What is the reason for the unemployment (laid off, quit, fired or suspended, on strike, sick leave, worker's compensation injury, other)
- On what date did employment terminate?
- Was termination permanent or temporary? If temporary, when is recall expected, if known?
- Will any income or benefits from any source be received, including but not limited to unemployment compensation, worker's compensation, sick pay, insurance, S.U.B. pay, social security, public assistance, other jobs or part-time work, V.A. benefits, retirement programs, an inheritance, savings, strike pay?
- When will these benefits start? How much income will they provide in total? How often will they be received? If they have started, include a copy of the check or check stub in the letter.
- Will the payer have an address change? If so, what will the new address be (both mailing address and street address, if they are different)?
- At what telephone number can the payer be reached between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday?
If you are the payer, you may wish to discuss your situation in person. If so, please call to make an appointment with your enforcement officer. Bring the answers to the questions listed above. Generally, you will be advised to make payments in accordance with the Child Support Formula based on your income from all sources while unemployed. Should any of these benefits increase, decrease, or end, you should report this in writing along with the effective date.
Any temporary arrangement for you to pay less than the court-ordered amount does not reduce the amount of support being charged against the account. Only the court, upon petition, and agreement in writing by the parties, or after a hearing upon petition by one of the parties, as described above, can change the order.
If you have no unemployment benefits, or if benefits have run out and you have not obtained employment within two weeks, you may be required to file a report with the FOC each month showing your attempts to find work. Forms will be provided to you for this purpose. You should also register with the Unemployment Agency, obtain a stamped Unemployment Agency card, and register with the Job Placement Division. Remember the well-being of the child must come first, even in times of economic difficulty. Both parents must work together, and with the FOC, to avoid misunderstandings and possible contempt of court proceedings.
Many people have seasonal occupations, such as those in agriculture or the construction trades. Child support must be paid on a regular basis throughout the year so the custodial parent can be assured a steady flow of support needed for the child. It is the responsibility of the payer with seasonal employment to budget income so payments can be made regularly, as ordered.
Payment of Health Care Expenses
Each child support order issued or modified after October 1, 2004 will include an additional amount for "ordinary health care expenses." A person who pays support will pay an additional amount to cover a portion of the child(ren)'s ordinary health care expenses. To pay out-of-pocket health care expenses as they are incurred will eliminate the need to seek separate reimbursement for every routine health care bill.
"Ordinary health care expenses" include co-payments, deductibles, and other uninsured health care costs. The base support obligation already covers remedial care items (i.e. band aids and non-prescription drugs) so these are not included in this category. On average, parents spend $357 annually per child on ordinary health care costs.
Unless otherwise provided in the court order, the parent with physical custody has the responsibility to make decisions regarding routine medical care of the child, such as: choice of doctors, nature and extent of care, and the timing of non-emergency care, including the scheduling of periodic physical examinations. However, in cases where joint legal custody has been awarded, the parent with physical custody must consult with the other parent on major decisions such as surgery, hospitalization, or orthodontic work. In emergency situations involving the minor child, the non-custodial parent must be informed immediately.
Unless specified in the court order, specialized courses of treatment may require a separate court order, which delineates the responsibilities of the parties to pay for the treatment. Health care expenses above the ordinary health care amount in the order are "extraordinary" health care expenses. Any health care expenses incurred by the payer of support, is also considered an extraordinary health care expense. The support order will tell the parents the percentage that each must pay for extraordinary health care expenses. Parents are cautioned that providers of medical care are not required to look for payment to any person other than the parent who authorized the treatment. That parent must then ask for reimbursement from the other parent.
Rule for Parents about Health Care Expenses
- Both parents are responsible.
- Parents who are required to pay support contribute their share of ordinary expenses as part of their regular child support payments.
- The amount specified in the court order is for all the children in the case. Parents do not have to keep a separate accounting for each child.
- The amount in the order restarts at the beginning of every calendar year (January 1st – December 31st).
- The custodial parent can only request medical enforcement from the FOC if the ordinary health care expenses exceed the amount in the court order.
- If the payer incurs a health care expense for the child(ren), then the payer can request medical enforcement assistance from the FOC.
General guidelines for the payment of health care expenses by the parties are as follows:
- A parent is required to provide health insurance information to the other parent, and a copy, when requested, to the Medical Support unit of the FOC Office. The parents and each parent's employer may receive inquiries from the FOC Office for information about the insurance maintained for the children.
- The parties are required to submit expenses to all available insurance companies to keep out-of-pocket costs to the parties to a minimum. Each parent's liability is determined by their court ordered percentage of the balance remaining after the subtraction of all insurance reimbursements for the medical expense, from all sources (insurance from parents, step-parents, grandparents, etc.)
- The parent obtaining health care for their children is responsible for giving the health care provider information regarding all insurances (medical, dental, vision, etc.) and stating which insurance company is primary to assist in proper billing of the expense. The parent obtaining care for the children is the responsible parent for payment, even if they do not have insurance or their insurance is not the primary provider.
- The custodial parent should keep track of health care expenses they incur in case they exceed the amount stated in the order. To seek enforcement for "extraordinary expenses" the custodial parent must provide documentation that they exceeded the ordinary health care amount in the order.
A parent must provide a copy of the "extraordinary" medical bill to the other parent within 28 days after the insurer's final payment or denial of coverage to clearly show the amounts paid/due from each party (including paid by insurance). We recommend that parents use form FOC13 Request for Healthcare Expense Payment, which includes the following information:
- The child's name
- Date of service
- Nature of the services performed
- Cost of service
- Complete name and address of the health care provider
- An explanation of benefits (if available)
- Amount remaining to be paid.
The parents must then cooperate in the payment of the bill in order to satisfy their joint liability.
- Payments on medical bills should not be sent to the FOC for disbursement except as detailed below (see Enforcement of Medical Expenses). The FOC does not act as a clearinghouse for the payment of medical bills. These matters can and should be handled directly by the parties themselves in the majority of cases.
- All insurance payments are to be forwarded to the health care provider or to the parent who incurred the expense.
Enforcement of Medical Expenses by the FOC
The law requires the FOC to enforce the medical support provisions of your support order. Before a complaint of non-payment will be accepted by the FOC you must first provide the other party with an itemized statement for each expense (see item 4, reference to form FOC 13) within 28 days after the insurer's final payment or denial of coverage. This statement needs to include the name of the child that received care, the date of the care, the reason and diagnostic code and cost, and the complete name and address of the health care provider. If applicable, a copy of your insurance carrier's explanation of benefits (the statement that tells why the insurance did or did not pay towards the expense and the amount paid) should be included.
If the other parent does not pay their share of the claimed expenses within 28 days of the date you provided the itemized statement to that parent, then you may file a written request for enforcement with the FOC. To file a non-payment complaint with the FOC, provide a copy of your FOC 13 Request for Healthcare Expense Payment form and all the attachments (see #4 in the Guidelines for Payment). In addition, completion of a Complaint for Enforcement for Health Care Expense Payment (form FOC 13a) will be required. A complaint must be submitted to the FOC on or before any of the following:
- One year after the expense was incurred.
- Six months after the insurers' final payment or denial of coverage for the expense.
You will also be required to attend all appointments, conferences and hearings about the bills and to produce a copy of an itemized bill for each expense, receipts showing any payments made and any related correspondence with the provider of service or the other parent. These documents are needed to prove your case. After verifying that the ordinary health care amount has been exceeded and the process of the law has been followed, the FOC will send the formal request for payment to the other parent. If the parent does not pay the bill, or objects and requests a hearing, the amount will be added as a support arrearage to your case or credited to the support balance.
A party also has the option of initiating an enforcement action through a private attorney.
The FOC makes no distinction between parents who receive support and parents who pay support when processing health care bills for children. These are shared responsibilities unless your order says otherwise. If you have paid for health care bills for your children, you can use the enforcement processes of the FOC even if you are the person who pays child support.
Health Care Insurance
Provisions requiring one or both parents to maintain health insurance for the child(ren), if such insurance is available through a parent's employment, are required in the following:
- Judgments of Divorce involving a child
- Orders involving a child of unmarried or separated parents.
- Modifications to existing judgments and orders.
If your order requires you to maintain health insurance for your child(ren) and it is available through your employer, you must provide such coverage even if you have to pay a premium, provided that the premium is determined to be a "reasonable cost" under the provisions of Michigan State and Federal law. If the amount being paid for child support, child care and your portion of the health care premium exceeds 50% of your wages after taxes, union dues and/or uniform charges, the cost is considered unreasonable.
If insurance is not maintained through a parent's employer and coverage is available a National Medical Support Notice (NMSN) will be forwarded to the employer with a copy to each parent. The NMSN requires the employer to enroll the children listed on the form for all insurance types available. If the cost is available they must provide it, along with information regarding the coverage to the FOC.
If the employer determines that the employee's wages do not allow the enrollment of the children on the available insurance, the employer must provide documentation to the FOC. If the employer does not deem the insurance cost to be unreasonable but the parent believes the cost is excessive, the parent may write the FOC to object/request a review. The written request must include the date, the case/docket number, be clearly labeled "Insurance Review Request," include the basis for the objection and the signature of the objecting parent.
If the court order does not specifically designate whose insurance is primary, the insurance carriers will determine this.
- If a parent is required to maintain insurance coverage but does not obtain it due to the expense, and the parent's present spouse maintains insurance for the child, is a show cause warranted?
No. Insurance is being maintained for the benefit of the child. A Show Cause proceeding is not warranted, as the purpose of the provision is to protect the child, not to cause the parent to incur unnecessary expense. You must still provide FOC with your spouse's name, social security number, employer's name and address, name and address of insurance companies, group numbers, policy numbers, types of coverage and effective dates. You must provide the other parent with an actual insurance card(s) and informational booklets.
- When a parent is required to maintain insurance if available through employment at a reasonable cost, what is a "reasonable cost"?
What cost is reasonable is now defined under the Michigan State law and new Federal law. For the amount that would be considered reasonable at a specific net income level, ask the FOC office.
- If a parent is required to maintain insurance coverage for a child but does not because of unemployment or unavailability, and the other parent's present spouse maintains insurance for the child, why isn't the first parent responsible for 100% of the uninsured expenses?
The FOC can only enforce the order of the court. Most court orders require that each parent is responsible for a portion of the expenses that are not reimbursed by insurance. It does not matter who has the insurance. The important issue is what expenses are not reimbursed by insurance. If you feel the other parent should pay more of the bills because they failed to maintain insurance, then you must seek a change to the court order.
- If a parent is required to maintain insurance for a child and does not, due to unemployment or unavailability of coverage, why isn't that parent required to get private insurance coverage?
Court orders usually only require a parent to maintain insurance if it is available through employment. However, if the order requires the parent to get private insurance if insurance is not available through employment, then that parent must get insurance from a private source.
- When a parent is required to provide insurance coverage but does not do so because of unemployment or unavailability of insurance, should that parent contribute to the cost of any insurance for the child maintained by the current spouse of the other parent?
Generally, a court order requires a parent to maintain insurance only when it is available at a reasonable cost through employment. The order usually does not require a parent to pay any expense for health insurance when it is not available through the employer. The FOC can only enforce the order of the court.
- When health insurance is available to a parent and is required to be maintained, what options are available if it is not maintained?
The FOC office can pursue enforcement of an insurance provision. This can include a notice to the employer to add the dependent(s) to available coverage and to deduct the cost from the employee's wages. The employee is provided the opportunity to object and have a hearing on the issue.
- If my spouse maintains coverage for the children must an insurance card and information be forwarded to the other parent?
Yes. Whenever insurance is maintained, regardless by whom, a card and/or forms required to utilize the coverage, along with informational booklets, must be forwarded to the other parent.
- Is the other parent required to follow the rules of your insurance and use affiliated health care providers?
Not unless the court order requires the other parent to first use the insurance company's affiliated providers. If this is a problem you may want to seek a change to your court order. NOTE: If the children are receiving Medicaid, MIChild, Healthy Kids or other types of public health assistance and there is also private insurance coverage, the insurance company's rules must be followed or the public assistance program will not pay.
Spousal support (often called alimony) and child support are not the same. Spousal support is for the support of the former spouse and child support is for the support of the child. For those who are unable to work for some reason, or who have not been employed for an extended period of time, spousal support may be ordered. Other circumstances may also justify spousal support. If ordered, spousal support might be for weekly or monthly payments for an indefinite period, for a limited time, or in one lump sum. It will be ordered to be paid through the MiSDU and the MiSDU will act as the receiving and disbursing agent. Spousal support arrearage is subject to many of the same enforcement actions as child support. Spousal support is also subject to federal and state tax offset refund intercepts.
Methods of Payment
Payments are to be made through the Michigan State Disbursement Unit (MiSDU) unless the support order states otherwise. Support may be deducted from your paycheck through income withholding. Employers must send the withholding to MiSDU. If you do not have income withholding, there are other payment options available.
- Money Order
- Cashier's check
- Certified check
- Credit cards: MasterCard, Discover, American Express, Visa
- Debit cards (must have the MasterCard or Visa Logo)
- Web payment on https://www.misdu.com
- PayNearMe – go to http://paynearme.com/en/ for more information.
Payments must be sent to:
PO Box 30351
Lansing, MI 48909-7851
If you need to pay in person at the FOC Office, only cash or certified checks are acceptable forms of payment. Personal checks are not accepted.
Holding and Returning Checks – by MiSDU
If a check is returned because there is not enough money in a payer's account to cover it (non-sufficient funds), a "bad check hold" is placed on the child support account and no further disbursements will be issued to the recipient until the check is redeemed. If a payer has more than one check returned for non-sufficient funds, the state may require that future payments be made by cashier's check or cash.
Payments received on an account which does not have a support order entered on the computer in MiCSES must be held and cannot be disbursed until an order has been entered. As soon as the order is received by the FOC, and your case information is entered these payments will be applied to your case/docket and disbursements to the recipient will begin.
Public Act 548 of 2004 (MCL 400.236(4) requires that the Michigan State Disbursement Unit (MiSDU) disburse support electronically. The MiSDU must accomplish this either through direct deposit to an individual's bank account or a debit card.
Recipients of support will receive 3 NOTICES from MiSDU. If you do not indicate your preference for direct deposit by submitting a Direct Deposit form (on the back of the first and second Notice) within 2 weeks, MiSDU will send a 3rd Notice indicating a debit card will be issued to you. If you misplaced your form, you can access forms on MiSDU's website, www.misdu.com
The following customers are exempt from mandatory participation in electronic disbursement of support:
- Individuals with a mental or physical disability that poses a hardship in accessing electronic payments.
- Individuals with a language or literacy barrier that poses a hardship in accessing electronic payments.
- Individuals with both home and work addresses that are more than 30 miles from an ATM or financial institution.
Exempt customers are not required to receive payments via direct deposit or a debit card. They must contact the MiSDU to request an exemption by calling 1-877-543-2660.
All payments sent to MiSDU are processed as soon as possible. Most payments are disbursed within two days of receipt of the MiSDU.
Debit Card Recipients
The US Bank ReliaCard Visa is a prepaid debit card, not a credit card. Support payments will be deposited directly to the card. Cardholders can use the ReliaCard Visa debit card in the same manner as any Visa-branded card. Funds are accessed through either a signature or a secure Personal Identification Number (PIN). Only the MiSDU can deposit money into this account, the cardholder cannot add funds.
When the card is sent in the mail, it will contain instructions on how to activate your card and how to choose your PIN number. After your card is activated, the recipient can use www.reliacard.com to:
- Change their PIN
- View the balance
- View current month and previous month's transactions
For all questions about debit cards, call 1-877-543-2660 and follow the prompts for the MiSDU.
Payment records are maintained by the FOC. Transaction histories (a multi-year record of financial payments received and distributed) are maintained on microfiche for transactions before May 4, 1999. Requests for a transaction history must be in writing. There may be a charge for this service. Requests for current account records (case status report or printout), if made in writing, should include a stamped, self-addressed envelope. Court Case Reports may be obtained immediately upon request by coming to the FOC information counter, first floor, Gull Road Justice Complex or by calling the FOC at (877) 543-2660. You may also send your request by e-mail to FOC@ kalcounty.com.
Audits and Appointments
Parties are encouraged to keep a record of charges, payments and credits. If your records indicate that FOC account records are incorrect, you may request in writing the transaction history of your case and compare it to your records using the eight helpful hints below. Requests should be sent to the Customer Service Department of the FOC, or e-mailed to FOC@kalcounty.com.
If the FOC's records and your records do not agree, you may submit a written request for an audit of your account. Many questions can be answered by an audit without an appointment. If the transaction history, your records, and the audit still do not agree, request an appointment with the FOC auditor. A subsequent audit will not be conducted within 18 months of an audit unless error by the FOC can be determined.
Examples of documents that should be brought to the appointment include: receipts, canceled checks or check stubs to show how much you paid or received; legal documentation of marriages, deaths, military service, emancipation of minor or graduation from high school; documentation of parenting time credits; and other relevant matters.
Helpful Hints - Did you:
- Fail to include extra money to cover payment of the monthly service fees (this is $3.50 per month)?
- Forget that payments were not made during a vacation or other period when income was interrupted (layoff, strike, etc.), and that no extra money was later sent in to catch up the missed payments? This frequently occurs in cases in which an Order of Income Withholding is in effect.
Fail to pay support when the child is with the payer (parenting time)? Some Judgments of Divorce or other court orders provide that support will completely abate (be stopped or discontinued) during parenting time.
This means the payer is liable for the support and the FOC will continue to charge the regular amount of support even during those periods. If the recipient of support is willing to grant a credit for a specific dollar amount for a specific period of time, in writing, the court may grant the credit. If parenting time credits have been specified in your Judgment, failure to provide the FOC with the actual parenting time dates within 6 months will also cause problems.
- Make support payments directly to the recipient instead of through MiSDU? If support is ordered payable through MiSDU that is the only way payments should be made.
- Fail to inform your attorney that adjustments should be made in the final Judgment of Divorce because the parties attempted a reconciliation during which period the support should have been suspended?
- Misunderstand the billing period? All support is due on the first day of the month, and the computer system automatically bills the accounts on that day.
- Assume that because an Income Withholding Order had been ordered that you were not responsible for support payments until the IWO took effect? Payments must be made by you from the date the support order is effective until support starts to be automatically withheld from your paycheck. It may take several weeks from the time support is ordered until an income withholding order becomes effective. Payers need to make manual payments until any Income Withholding takes effect.
- Fail to consider the semi-annual surcharge that is required to be assessed on overdue support? (See the Support Orders Surcharge section.) Surcharges stopped being assessed on overdue support in 2009. Currently surcharges can only be assessed by court order.
According to MCL 600.2529, before entry of a final judgment or order in an action in which the custody, support or parenting time of minor children is determined or modified, the party submitting the judgment or order shall pay one of the following fees, which shall be deposited by the county treasurer as provided in section 2530:
- In an action in which the custody or parenting time of minor children is determined, $80.00.
- In an action in which the support of minor children is determined or modified, $40.00. This fee does not apply when a fee is paid under subparagraph "i". The court may order a party to reimburse to the other party all or a portion of the fee paid by the other party.
- A $20.00 motion fee in any case.
Statutory (Service) Fees
Service fees are set by law to partially offset administrative costs. They are currently charged at the rate of $21.00 on January 1st and July 1st. Support payments made by income withholding order include the statutory fee. The fee is normally withheld at the rate of $3.50 per month.
Charges for Copies of Account Records
Both parties, upon written request, may obtain a transaction history for his or her account. Transaction histories are not available at the walk-in information counter, as they are on microfilm and require time to obtain.
Printouts of the current status of your account can be picked up at the information counter on the 1st floor of the Gull Road Justice Complex, 1536 Gull Road, Kalamazoo, MI 49048. They may also be obtained by calling the Interactive Voice Response system at (877) 543-2660 or by e-mail at FOC@kalcounty.com. A copy will be mailed to you at your address of record.
The FOC cannot provide you with copies of the court records pertaining to your case. Court records are available from the Ninth Circuit Court Clerk. There are copying charges of $1.00 per page for this service from the court clerk.
The Court Speaks Through Its Written Orders
Why won't the FOC enforce what the judge said in court, even if it is not in the written order?
It is not an order until it is put in writing and signed by the judge. The FOC can enforce only the written orders of the court, not the verbal ones. If you feel the written order does not agree with what the judge or referee said at the hearing, bring your concerns to the attention of the person who prepared the written order and request a change. You can also file a motion with the court asking the court to correct the written order.
Adoptions, Marriage and Military Service
What happens to my child support order and any support that may be owed if my minor child is adopted, marries or enters the military service?
A child support order will be stopped if the minor child is adopted, marries or enters the military service. The FOC must be provided with a copy of adoption orders, marriage records or military service records before support will be stopped. Any amounts owed must still be paid.
Access to School and Other Records
Do I have access to school, medical, and other records if my child lives with the other parent?
Michigan law provides that each parent has a right to access certain records and information about his or her child whether or not they have custody of the child. Records and information that may be accessed include medical records, dental records, school records, day care provider records, and notification of meetings about the child's education. These records should be obtained from their original source, not from FOC files.
Change of Domicile
My order states that I cannot move my children from the state of Michigan without approval of the court. How do I get the court's approval?
If the parties agree to a change of domicile, they can sign a written agreement (stipulation and consent order). With the agreement, they will then file a petition with the court. An order will be entered if the court approves the agreement.
If the parties cannot agree on a change of domicile, they have the following options:
- Contact the other party to see if he or she will agree to mediation;
- File a petition on your own behalf; or
- Have an attorney help you file the petition.
Notification to the FOC or the filing of a petition does not allow you to move from the state. You do not have permission to move until the judge signs the court order and it is entered with the county clerk.
Moving More Than 100 miles
Is it true that I cannot move more than 100 miles away from my current home?
With some exceptions, a parent of a child whose custody is governed by a court order is not allowed to change his or her legal residence more than 100 miles from his or her legal residence at the time the action was started. Exceptions exist if:
- The other parent agrees to the move;
- The court approves the move;
- One parent has sole legal custody;
- At the time the action was started the parents lived more than 100 miles apart; or
- The move would reduce the distance between the residences of the parents.
If you have questions about a possible move, contact the FOC or a private attorney for more information.
What can the FOC do to find a missing parent?
The state and federal government have set up a parent locating service for IV-D cases that can be used to:
- Locate a parent to collect child support.
- Locate a parent for deciding or enforcing a child custody matter.
- Locate a parent in cases of parental kidnapping.
The FOC, Prosecuting Attorney and DHHS support specialists can ask to use this service. The full name, date of birth, social security number, and the last known address of the parent to be located are required.
Can the FOC enforce the property settlement provisions contained in my judgement of divorce?
No. The FOC enforces custody, parenting time and support orders. The FOC does not have the legal authority to enforce property settlement orders.
What is the domestic relations referee and what does he or she do?
A referee is an attorney who holds hearings, takes testimony and provides a written report to the court. The Chief Judge of a circuit court may appoint a referee to hear any domestic relations matter (except an increase or decrease of spousal support/alimony).
A hearing before a referee is not the same as a hearing before a judge. The findings of a referee are only recommendations to the court, and are not final. These recommendations will become an order of the court, subject to being set aside upon motion and hearing. Until the referee recommendation is approved and signed by the judge, the FOC cannot enforce it.
If you disagree with a referee's recommendation, you have the right to a hearing before a circuit court Judge. You must request this hearing in writing within 21 days after receiving the referee's recommendation (Requests for a hearing on an income withholding order must be made within 14 days.). Written objections are filed at the counter at the Gull Road Justice Complex, 1536 Gull Road.
How Do I File a Complaint Against the FOC?
If you have a complaint about the FOC operations or employees, you can bring it to the Friend of the Court by letter or phone call. Michigan law also provides a grievance procedure a party can use when they have a complaint about FOC operations or employees. A grievance may not be used to disagree with a decision of a judge or an FOC recommendation.
- You can file a grievance in two ways:
- By filing a grievance form, which you can obtain at the FOC office, or
- By stating your concerns in writing to the FOC, in which you clearly identify your letter as a grievance.
- The Friend of the Court must investigate and answer your grievance within 30 days or notify you why a response is not possible within that time.
- If you are not satisfied with the Friend of the Court's response to your grievance, you can file a further grievance, in writing, with the Chief Circuit Court Judge within 30 days of the response.
- The Chief Circuit Court Judge must investigate and answer your grievance within 30 days or notify you of the reason for the delay.
The FOC grievance procedure ends with the response of either the Friend of the Court or if a further grievance is filed, the Chief Circuit Court Judge.
How Do I File A Complaint About My Court Orders?
Court orders are not covered under the FOC grievance procedure. Contact your attorney to discuss your legal options, such as a motion for re-hearing or an appeal to the Michigan Court of Appeals.
How Do I File a Complaint About The Conduct Of The Judge or the Referee?
The Judicial Tenure Commission was created to review grievances about alleged misconduct of a judge. Anyone who has serious concerns about the conduct of a judge or a referee can contact:
Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission
3034 West Grand Blvd.
Detroit, MI 48202
Phone: (313) 875-5110
Complaints concerning your court orders should not be sent to the Judicial Tenure Commission. The Judicial Tenure Commission is not an appellate court and cannot change the content of a court order.
How Do I File A Complaint About My Attorney?
The Attorney Grievance Commission was created to investigate alleged misconduct of Michigan attorneys. Anyone who has serious concerns about the behavior of an attorney can contact:
Attorney Grievance Commission
243 West Congress, Suite 256
Detroit, Michigan 48226
(313) 961-6585 or http://www.agcmi.com/
Kalamazoo County has a wide range of community resources and groups to assist parents and children in coping with divorce. Because many of these resources are volunteer groups, which often change leadership, it is impractical to list them in this booklet.
However, the Enforcement Officers and Custody and Parenting time Caseworkers of the FOC maintain a list of these groups and organizations, with the latest addresses and telephone numbers, and will provide this information to you.
Abatement - To reduce or diminish in part.
Adjournment - The postponing or putting off of a case to a later date.
Adjudication - The final judicial determination of a case by the giving of a judgment in a civil case.
Adoption - A legal proceeding where a person takes a child of another into his or her own family and for all legal purposes makes the child his or her own child.
Alimony - see spousal support.
Appeal - An application to a higher court to change the judgment or order of a lower court.
Arbitration - A procedure for determination of a contested matter where a person who is not a judge, but whose decision legally decides a matter binds the parties.
Arrearage - Money that is overdue and unpaid.
Attorney - A person licensed to practice law; a lawyer.
rrant - An order of the court for the arrest of a person, so that person can be brought before the court.
Chief Judge - The judge who serves as the director of the administration of the court.
Child Abuse/Neglect - Mistreatment of a minor child by an adult legally responsible for the child.
Child Support - Payment of money ordered by a court for a child in a domestic relations action. Support also includes health care costs, childcare, costs and educational expenses for a child.
Child Support Formula - A formula created by the SCAO for use by the FOC and the Prosecuting Attorney in making recommendations about child support amounts. Both parents' incomes are considered.
Circuit Court - The court of general jurisdiction in Michigan.
Complaint - An initial pleading in a case that asks the court to grant an order.
Contempt of Court Hearing - A court hearing in which the person accused of violating a court order has the opportunity to explain why they did not comply with the order. Also known as a "show cause" hearing.
Custody - Care and keeping of a child in a domestic relations action.
Defendant - The person against whom a lawsuit is filed.
DHHS (Michigan Department of Health and Human Services)- The state agency that handles the public assistance program.
Docket Number – This is the same as your case number. If you received a case number prior to software conversion (Sept '03) you may need to add the complete year to the front of your number. Examples: case #94-006666 is docket #1994006666: and case #02-006666 is docket #2002006666.
Domestic Relations Matter - Any circuit court proceeding involving families, such as paternity, divorce, child custody or parenting time, or child or spousal support.
Dismissal - A court order terminating a particular case.
Divorce - The legal dissolution of a marriage.
Domicile- The permanent home to which a person, when absent, always intends to return; legal residence.
Emancipation - Legally becoming an adult. Emancipation usually occurs when a child attains the age of 18 years, but can also occur at a younger age if a child marries or joins the military, or by court order.
Enforcement - Action by the FOC or private attorneys to compel a person to follow a court order.
Ex Parte - On the request of one party only, without advance notice to the other party.
Ex Parte Order - An order made by the court at the request of one party without advance notice to the other party.
Family Division - The division of Circuit Court where domestic relations matters are heard.
Family Independence Program (FIP) - The program of public assistance handled by DHHS. (Also known as the IV-D program and TANF.)
File - To physically or electronically put in the records of the court.
Filing - The act of recording legal documents in a lawsuit, with the court clerk.
Friend of the Court (FOC) - Both the person serving as the head of the Office of the Friend of the Court, and the Office itself. In the text, the abbreviation FOC is used throughout.
Income Withholding Order - An order of the court requiring that money be withheld by an employer or other source of income from the income due to the payer and sent to the FOC in payment of support.
Income Withholding Notice - A notice sent to an employer or other source of income notifying them that they must comply with an Income Withholding Order.
Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system – an automated phone system with options for general information and options for case/docket specific information. User-friendly informational cards are available at the Kalamazoo County FOC front counter.
Interstate Income Withholding Order - An order entered to require payment of support through an employer in another state.
Joint Legal Custody - An order of the court providing that parents share in major decisions concerning their child.
Joint Physical Custody - An order of the court providing that a child will live part of the time with one parent and part of the time with the other parent.
Judgment - The written decision of a court.
Lien - A legal claim against real or personal property.
Mediation - A process used by parties to reach their own agreements without a court hearing. The FOC will provide mediation services when there is a dispute over custody or parenting time, if both parties agree.
Michigan Court Rules (MCR) - A set of formal, written rules concerning court procedures.
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)- The state agency that handles the public assistance program.
Minor - A child under the age of eighteen years.
MiSDU - Michigan State Disbursement Unit. The centralized branch of Michigan's support system that collects and disburses support payments.
Order - A written decision of a court.
Parenting Time Order - An order that establishes time to be spent between the child and the parent with whom they do not normally reside.
Party - A plaintiff or a defendant in a lawsuit.
Paternity suit - A legal proceeding to determine the father of a child born to parents who were not married to each other when the child was born.
Payee - the person or agency to whom support is sent; usually the custodial parent. Also called the recipient of support.
Payer - A person ordered to pay support.
Petition - A formal written request to the court.
Plaintiff - The person who originally starts an action by filing a Complaint.
Pleadings - Papers filed by parties in a lawsuit stating their claims and defenses.
Pretrial Conference - An informal hearing between the judge, the attorneys, and sometimes, the parties to discuss any matters that can be settled before a court hearing.
Pro Per - A person who represents himself/herself in court without an attorney.
Pro Se – The same as "Pro Per."
Protective Services (PS) - The part of the DHHS dealing mainly with child abuse and neglect.
Public Assistance - A public benefit program administered by the DHHS providing benefits to families under the provisions of Title IV-D of the Social Security Act; includes Cash Assistance (TANF), Food Assistance, Medicaid and child care.
Recipient - Same as Payee
Reconciliation - When parties to a domestic relations action decide to work out their differences and remain as a single-family unit.
Referee - A court officer who holds hearings, takes testimony and makes recommendations to the court.
Residence - The place where a person lives.
Show Cause Hearing - Same as Contempt of Court Hearing.
Sole Legal Custody -An order of the court that gives one person the authority to make major decisions concerning a child without consulting the other party or parties.
Sole Physical Custody - An order of the court providing that a child will live most of the time with one person (usually a parent) but generally awarding parenting time to the other parent.
State Court Administrative Office (SCAO) - The administrative agency of the Michigan Supreme Court.
Statutes - Laws of the State of Michigan enacted by the Legislature.
Stipulation - An agreement between parties or their attorneys that resolves a particular issue when a written order is entered.
Summons - A notice given to a Defendant that a court action has been started against him/her.
Support Order - an order issued by the circuit court requiring the payment of money for a child or spouse in a domestic relations action.
- Temporarily stopping support or parenting time.
- A revocation of professional licenses, driving licenses or recreational licenses until resolution of support payment or parenting time problems.
Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) - A public benefit program administered by the DHHS providing temporary benefits to families under the provisions of Title IV-D of the Social Security Act.
Testimony - The statement of a party or witness under oath that is given as evidence in a legal proceeding.
Transcript - A written, word for word record of proceedings at a hearing.
Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) - A law that allows recognition and enforcement of support orders where parents reside in different states.
Warrant - Same as rrant
Witness - A person that gives testimony as to what he/she has seen, heard or otherwise observed.