Child Support Tips for Fathers and Mothers

mother and father sitting beside child holding their hands

Being a single parent is hard work. Balancing your child’s needs with financial pressures without anyone else to tow the line can push moms and dads to their limit. Find out what fathers and mothers can do in a child support case to help their kids get the financial support they need.

1. Sign an Affidavit of Parentage to Speed Up Your Child Support Case

When a pregnancy is unplanned or a result of a short-term relationship, some mothers are hesitant to sign an Affidavit of Parentage and put the father’s name on their child’s birth certificate. Most of the time, you will receive the Affidavit of Parentage document at the hospital following your baby’s birth. You may be worried that by signing it, you are making it easier for the man to “take your child away.” However, by refusing to sign, you are also making your own child support case harder.

A child support order can only be entered against a legal parent of the child. When a child is conceived or born during a mother’s marriage, the person she is married to is presumed to be the father of the child. (Michigan has not updated its laws since same-sex marriage was legalized in 2015, but there are arguments to extend the presumption to a mother’s wife in a same-sex couple.) However, for unmarried mothers, that legal parent status doesn’t attach to their child’s father without one of two things:

  1. An Affidavit of Parentage
  2. An Order of Filiation

If you refuse to sign the Affidavit of Parentage ahead of time, the court will have to order a DNA test and determine the identity of the child’s father before it can grant you child support.

2. File Early -- You Usually Can’t Get Retroactive Child Support

You shouldn’t have to “make it on your own.” By waiting to file a Complaint for Child Support with the Washtenaw County Trial Court or other local circuit courts, you are simply leaving money on the table that you could be using to help your child live more comfortably.

Michigan law generally does not allow for retroactive child support awards. This means you can’t look backward and ask to be reimbursed for time before your Complaint for Child Support was filed. The earlier you file, the more support you will receive over your child’s lifetime. It may take you months to negotiate a settlement or win your child support case in court, but in the end, the judge can make your child support order effective as of the date your complaint was filed -- no earlier.

This rule about retroactive child support also applies to modifications. If you lose your job, your child needs more expensive child care, or you learn the payor has increased his/her income, you should talk to a local family law attorney as soon as possible to file your motion to modify child support and protect your child’s right to the additional support.

3. Be Ready to Prove Your Income and Child Care Expenses

Once you have filed your complaint, you and your family attorney should gather information about your income, health insurance costs, and child care expenses. You will likely be required to provide:

  • Your most recent tax returns (up to 3 years for variable income cases)
  • Your most recent pay stubs
  • Your business income and expenses if self-employed
  • Child care expenses
  • Health insurance expenses and how many people are covered on the plan
  • Extraordinary medical expenses for the child (such as copays and deductibles)
  • Your spouse’s income if married filing jointly (Your spouse’s income does not affect your child support, but does affect how tax is calculated against your gross income.)

Both parents are required to provide the same information, but you shouldn’t assume that the other parent will. When it is time for the Friend of the Court child support investigation, bring along any proof you have of the other parent’s job or what he or she earns. Your family law attorney will help you identify what may help show if they are hiding income.

4. Don’t Tangle Up Child Support and Parenting Time

It is true that in Michigan, child support is affected by the number of overnights the child spends with each parent. This can sometimes create battles over parenting time that are really motivated by money. In other cases, the custodial parent will withhold parenting time with the child to try to force the non-custodial parent to pay his or her child support.

Avoid giving into those temptations. Michigan family court judges want to see that you are looking out for what is best for your child, not your bank account. If you resist settlement on parenting time because it will cost you a few dollars in child support, or deny visitation that has been ordered to try to force payment, you may find the judge gives you even less than you were bargaining for.

5. Get the Court to Help You Enforce Child Support

It shouldn’t be your job to chase after your child’s other parent for money. Both parents are responsible to provide for their children’s needs. In fact, Michigan law says that a parent is not legally allowed to waive the other parent’s child support obligation. That right belongs to the child. On that same token, minor children generally cannot waive a parent’s obligation to support them.

The Michigan Friend of the Court office provides ongoing child support services to parents who need help enforcing their child support orders. It can seek orders withholding payments from your child’s parent’s paycheck, issue bench warrants, and even suspend his or her driver’s license to enforce payments. Be sure to use those services if trouble continues after your child support case is over.

At NSSSB, we are proud to serve as child support lawyers for single mothers and fathers in Michigan. We want to help you and your children get the support you need to live comfortably and provide for their needs. Click here to schedule a consultation with a Southeast Michigan family law attorney at one of our offices in Ann Arbor or Bloomfield Hills. We will listen to the details of your situation, answer your questions, and give you the tools to navigate your child support case.