How to Calculate Child Support Payments in Michigan

Learn how to calculate child support in Michigan, when the amount of support may be different than what’s calculated under the state’s formula, and how to apply for, collect, and modify child support.

By , Attorney · UC Law San Francisco

Michigan has a child support formula that parents and judges use to calculate the right amount of support in a particular case. The formula is based on the principle that children have a legal right to financial support from both parents.

How to Calculate Child Support Under Michigan's Child Support Formula

You can use the official Michigan Child Support Calculator to calculate the amount of support under Michigan's current child support guidelines. The calculator is based on Michigan's child support guidelines (called the "formula").

Michigan's formula takes into account many factors, including:

  • both parents' income
  • the number of children who need to be supported
  • the total number of overnights the children spend with each parent
  • health care and insurance costs, and
  • child care costs.

Learn more about Michigan's child custody and child support laws, including what gets counted as income when calculating support.

(Mich. Comp. Laws §§ 552.605, 552.605a (2024).)

Are Other Child Support Calculators Accurate?

Watch out for websites with so-called child support calculators for Michigan. Unfortunately, there's no guarantee that these calculators are accurate and up-to-date. Michigan updates its child support guidelines regularly, and you usually can't tell whether any of these websites have kept up with the latest changes.

It's best to stick with the official state calculator to get the most accurate amount of child support you may pay or receive. Be aware, however, that this will be an estimate. As explained below, the judge may order a different amount in your case. And, of course, the accuracy of any child support calculation will also depend on the accuracy of the information you provide.

When Child Support May Be Different than the Formula Calculation

Michigan judges must order the amount of support calculated by the formula unless ordering it would be unfair or inappropriate. Examples of circumstances that might justify an amount of support different from the formula amount (called "deviation factors") include:

  • the child has special needs
  • the child has extraordinary educational expenses
  • a parent is a minor
  • a parent has extraordinary medical expenses
  • the judge awards property instead of support for the benefit of the child
  • a parent receives bonus income in varying amounts at irregular intervals, or
  • the child earns an extraordinary income.

(Mich. Comp. Laws § 552.605, 2021 MCSF 1.04(E) (2024).)

How to Apply for Child Support in Michigan

If you're filing for divorce in Michigan, you can request child support as part of that process. You can—and parents often do you—agree on an amount of child support as part of a divorce settlement. You'll have to submit your agreement for a judge to approve. If you agree to an amount that is different than the formula calculation, you'll have to explain your reasons in a deviation addendum. If you can't agree on an amount of support, a judge will decide for you.

You can also apply for support through the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). You can apply online or print and complete a paper application for child support services. If you aren't married to your child's other parent, MDHHS can help you establish paternity and then apply for support.

How to Collect Child Support in Michigan

You can collect child support directly from the other parent or the Michigan State Disbursement Unit can process payments for you. All new and modified child support orders in Michigan are supposed to include income withholding from the paycheck of the parent who owes support unless both the parents and the judge agree on another payment method.

If you're having trouble collecting support payments, Friend of the Court (FOC) is the agency responsible for enforcing child support orders. The agency has many ways to help collect support, including:

  • intercepting income tax refunds, workers' compensation, or unemployment benefits
  • reporting the debt to credit bureaus
  • placing liens on property (like real estate, bank accounts, or insurance claims)
  • license suspensions (including driver's, professional, and sporting), and
  • holding the parent who isn't paying in contempt of court.

(Mich. Comp. Laws § 552.604 (2024).)

How to Change the Amount of Child Support

You can ask a judge to change a child support order by filing a motion regarding support. You might ask a judge for a modification if circumstances have changed since your last order, such as:

  • you've lost your job or your income has decreased
  • the other parent's income has increased
  • you're spending more overnights with your child, or
  • your family size has changed.

You have a right to ask FOC to review a support order once every 36 months. FOC may also initiate a review on its own or at your request if there has been a major change in your circumstances. The minimum threshold for modification is 10% of the current child support amount or $50 per month, whichever is greater.

(Mich. Comp. Laws § 552.517, 2021 MCSF 4.05 (2024).)

Getting Help With Child Support

Calculating child support is complicated. The Michigan Courts offer Michigan Legal Help, a self-help legal resource with tools and information to help you understand and deal with legal matters, including child support.

If you and your co-parent can't agree on child custody, support, or both, you might need a lawyer's help. An experienced lawyer can answer your questions, help you negotiate an agreement that works for you and your child, and advocate for you in court if it comes to that.

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