The Michigan Child Support Formula is based upon the needs of the child and the actual resources of each parent. The objective is to establish, as accurately as possible, the money a parent should have available for support.
The first step in figuring each parent's support obligation is to determine both parents' actual individual incomes. The objective is to establish "as accurately as possible, how much money a parent should have available for support." MCSF 2.01(B) (emphasis added). The court should consider the parties' "financial condition" and all "relevant factors."
After determining each parent's actual income, we must consider whether either has potential income. When the parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, or has an unexercised ability to earn, income must include potential income. The amount imputed "should be sufficient to bring that parent's income up to the level it would have been if the parent had not voluntarily reduced or waived income." MCR 2.01(G).
The Court must use relevant factors, including but not limited to:
(a) Prior employment experience and history;
(b) Educational level and any special skills or training;
(c) Physical and mental disabilities that may affect the parent's work;
(d) Availability of work;
(e) Opportunities in the area;
(f) Prevailing wage rates in the area;
(g) Diligence exercised in seeking work;
(h) Ability to work;
(i) Personal history, including present marital status and means of support;
(j) Impact of children and child support; and
(k) Whether there has been a significant reduction in income.
The third step is to consider deviation. The family court should consider deviation when the recommended amount is "unjust or inappropriate," considering such things as extra ordinary expenses, property awards and healthcare coverage. MCSF 2.01(G)(1). Even this list is not exclusive -- ultimately, the family court must exercise discretion and consider all relevant facts, the best interest of the child, and the payor's financial ability. Heilman v Heilman, 95 Mich app 728; 291 NW2d 183 (1980); Ghiodotti v Barber, 459 Mich 189; 586 NW2d 883 (1998).
Whatever the amount is, the Court will require income withholding from your paycheck unless the parents agree to suspending withholding and the payee parent is not receiving government assistance (part of which is paid back with the child support payment).
For more information and to discuss how these rules apply to your case, call or email our offce.