Failure to pay child support in Michigan can result in possible incarceration and criminal charges. In fact, Felony Non Payment of Child Support in Michigan carries a possible punishment of up to 4 years in prison or a fine of not more than $2,000 (two thousand dollars), or both. Such a person is also subject to habitual offender sentencing if applicable. Upon arrest, the District Court Judge or Magistrate is required to set a cash bond of not less than $500 (five hundred dollars) or 25% of the arrearage, whichever is greater. The County Friend of the Court routinely reports to the County Prosecutor's Office or the Michigan Attorney General's Office the names and addresses of persons who fail to pay child support. An arrest warrant generally allows for extradition of the payor from anywhere in the United States back to Michigan.
The Prosecutor's Officer or the Attorney General's office must prove at preliminary examination (unless the examination is waived) and trial (unless a resolution is reached before trial) that there is a valid child support order against a particular named individual, and that the named individual failed to pay the child support, arrearage, and fines and costs as ordered. This is viewed as a strict liability crime - the intent of the payor does not effect the ability to prosecute if payments were not made as directed. The testimony from witnesses called by the Prosecutor's Offices or the Attorney General's office usually consists of a Friend of the Court record keeper with the file of the payor. The file consists of the court order that lead to the child support obligation, proof of service, and the payment history.
There are other possible consequences to failing to pay child support outside of the criminal aspects mentioned above:
Immediate Income Withholding - the employer of the payor is required, if ordered, to deduct money from the payor's paycheck and submit it to the County Friend of the Court. Income withholding applies to current child support, alimony, arrearages (back due support), and other fees and financial obligations ordered by the Court of record. Up to 50% of the net income can be taken for child support, and up to 65% a premium is paid on health care insurance for the minor child(ren). There are agreements between all of the States of the United States to enforce each others child support agreements through interstate child support enforcement. For example, a payor of child support now living in New York cannot escape his Michigan obligation if an enforcement worker from the County Friend of the Court requests enforcement by New York of the Michigan obligation.
Tax Offset - Michigan and United States tax refunds can be seized and applied to an outstanding child support obligation.
Lien on Bank Account - failure to pay child support can lead to the freezing of bank accounts of the payor to meet the child support obligation.
Credit Reporting - the payor's credit score can be effected. Credit reporting is an automated process.
License Suspension - this is not limited to just driver's licenses. It also applies to sporting licenses (fishing, hunting, etc.) and professional licenses (for example, a day care license)
Passport Denial and Suspension - passport denial begins through an automated system if the arrearage is greater than $2500 (two thousand five hundred dollars).
Possible Incarceration - a Judge or Referee can show cause a person who fails to pay child support as directed to explain why payments were not made. If proven (or if the payor fails to appear at the show cause hearing), the payor may face incarceration.
Hiring the right attorney may make a difference in the your result:
1) If you are charged with a crime for failure to pay child support, the experienced defense attorney can sometimes enter into plea negotiations to reduce or dismiss the criminal charge. Usually such an agreement is dependent upon paying all or a significant portion of the child support within a specified period of time. If there are trial issues, you need the benefit of having a great criminal defense attorney in your corner.
2) If you are paying too much in child support, a lawyer can demand a hearing to reduce the child support obligation based upon a change in circumstances (losing a job, earning less due to the economy, etc.). It is important to note that if a change of circumstances occur, the payor should immediately request by Motion a reduction in the support amount. The referee or Judge will only go back to the date that the Motion was filed in considering the reduction; it will not result in a reduction in the amount of the arrearage. However, the parent of the custodial parent to whom support is owed can elect to waive the arrearage of money that he or she is owed. This does not apply to money that is owed to the State for welfare or any other benefit paid by or on behalf of the government.
3) If your overnight parenting time is increased, your child support obligation will decrease. Naturally, if you obtain custody the child support obligation ceases, and the other parent could become responsible to pay child support. Child support is determined through the Michigan Child Support Guidelines. The guidelines take into consideration the custodial parent's income, the non custodial parent's income, the number of child the non custodial parent supports, and the number of overnights that the parents have with the minor child(ren).
4) A lawyer can seek to have the payment amount on the arrearage reduced so that the payments are more managable.
5) A lawyer at a show cause hearing for non payment may be able to persuade the referee or Judge to either not incarcerate you, or to release you from custody, depending upon your circumstances.
6) The lawyer may be able to enter negotiations with the friend of the court concerning the release of a frozen license or passport.
Daniel Hilf, Esq. of the law firm of Hilf & Hilf, PLC, is a lawyer who is driven by a commitment to his clients. His legal career is distinguished by an ability to think on his feet, to analyze issues in both conventional and unconventional ways, and to react effectively against the challenges presented by Prosecutors and Courts.
“There is no greater hardship than to be deprived of your family and freedom, and the quality of the lawyer often makes all the difference. When the government – the prosecutors and the police, with all its power and indifference, chooses to act against you, you need a lawyer with the confidence, the experience and talent to obtain the right result. I cannot let my clients down, and I will fight for them”.