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Child Custody, Child Support, and Parenting Time Issues During COVID-19

The COVID-19 virus has presented issues that impact numerous aspects of our lives. As family law attorneys, our focus is how practical implications and legislation impact custody, parenting time, and child support issues faced by people across Michigan. This week, we’ll examine child support modifications during the shutdown, which were presented in the webinar, Child Support Modifications During the Shutdown, hosted by attorney Liisa Speaker.

In addition to the safety and security of loved ones during this unprecedented time, the financial impact on families across the world has created many issues. In the context of family law, thousands of parents across Michigan are subject to Uniform Child Support Orders which may now become tremendously burdensome due to loss of employment and/or a reduction of income. Thus, an important question to ask is: how does the shutdown impact a child support obligation? The executive orders alone do not create any changes to child support obligations, so any desired changes must be initiated by the parties.

There are two methods by which a party can seek a change in child support. The first option is to request a child support review through the Friend of the Court. Pursuant to MCL 552.517(b), either party may submit a written request to review the child support order. The caveat here is that the Friend of the Court is not required to conduct a review more than once every 36 months. The other option is to file a motion to modify child support. Parties are permitted to submit the written request to FOC as well as file a motion to modify the child support simultaneously.

Unfortunately, the courts being in various states of shutdown, it is unclear as to when your local friend of the court may be able to conduct your child support review or hear your motion to modify child support. However, if you face a change in your income, it is important to file a motion or submit a request as soon as possible. MCL 552.603(2) prohibits retroactive modification, unless such modification is permissible during a period in which there is pending a petition for modification. The date back to which the retroactive modification may be permitted is the date upon which the petition is served upon the opposing party in the action.

What does that mean in plain English? Perhaps the best way is to provide an example: let’s imagine you were employed earning $40,000.00 per year and you paid $500.00 per month in child support. As a result of the shutdown, you have been laid off and you have lost your income. If you wait until the courts are fully reopened to file a request to review or motion to modify, the effective date of modification would not be the time you lost your income, rather it would be the date on which you served the other party your written request or motion to modify. Therefore, your child support would go into arrears and no retroactive reduction would take place. Your support would continue to accrue at $500.00 per month until the date you served the opposing party. With that in mind, it is critical to file either (or both) your written request or motion to modify as soon as possible.

With the unpredictability the future holds in regard to the economy, make an affirmative effort to change your child support obligation if you have lost your employment and/or face a reduction in your income.

The information in this post is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information contained in this post should be construed as legal advice from Sterling Law or the individual author nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the reader’s licensing jurisdiction.


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