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Michigan Family Law Blog

Failure to Pay Child Support in Michigan

Posted by Cameron Goulding | Jul 06, 2023 | 0 Comments

Once a court orders child support, the parent is required by law to pay it. When a parent stops paying it, there are consequences. Of course, many reasons exist why a parent may stop, but if it is because of a substantial change in circumstances, that parent should immediately go through the courts to request a modification of child support. 

At North Oakland Michigan Divorce Law, we know that child support payments made timely are always in the best interest of the child. Our child support lawyer in Michigan will help any parent enforce the order. Contact us either by using our online form or calling us directly at (248) 608-4123 to schedule a consultation.

When a Parent Fails to Pay Child Support in Michigan

When a parent fails to pay child support, there may be a reason for it. Loss of income, however, is not a valid reason. That said, if the non-custodial parent does lose their job, they can file a motion to modify the child support order. 

Sometimes, a court does not initially order the child support to be garnished from the parent's wages. So, the parent just stops paying. Other times, the non-custodial parent's wages are garnished, but the parent quits the job and finds another job without telling anyone and then stops paying child support.

When child support payments stop suddenly and aren't paid for any length of time, that can put a serious financial burden on the custodial parent. 

How to Respond to a Parent's Failure to Pay Child Support

How to respond depends on the circumstances of each individual case. Much of it has to do with whether or not a child support order was ever filed.

No Child Support Order

Sometimes, parents come to an agreement about child support. The non-custodial parent will agree to pay a certain amount each month. They come to this agreement without the involvement of the courts, and so a court order is never filed. When the parent fails to pay it, you often do not have a way to make the non-custodial parent pay. A court cannot enforce an order that does not exist. That's why you always want to go through the courts for child support, child custody, and spousal support––it is the only way to protect yourself and your child. You can attempt to come to an agreement with the other parent, but any agreement will have to be entered with the court as an order, so even if you have an agreement, you should contact a child support lawyer in Michigan to make sure the proper petitions are filed and the proper orders are issued by the court.

Court Order Issued

If you do have a court order, the starting point can still be the same: talk to the other parent and find out what has happened and come up with a plan. If that does not work, contact a lawyer. Some states have a time frame before it considers child support payments as late, and our child support attorney will advise you regarding it as well as guiding you through the process to enforce the child support order, among other potential remedies.

Typically, a notice is sent to the non-paying parent first. The notice explains the child support enforcement process and provides a timeline to comply with the notice.

Interstate Issues

If the non-paying parent lives in another state, the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, a federal law, allows the custodial parent to collect child support across state lines. Child support orders are enforceable by the state where the order was originally issued––this is known as continuing jurisdiction. In fact, even if the custodial parent moves with the child outside the state where the original child support order was issued, the same state has jurisdiction. Likewise, if the non-paying parent needs to modify child support, the laws of the original state will apply.  

Possible Consequences for Failure to Pay Child Support in Oakland County

Co-parenting is hard enough when everyone plays by the rules, but when one parent stops, it can be frustrating. The parent that fails to pay child support is considered to be “in arrears” when they fail to pay child support, and the support owed is called “arrearages.” 

The Child Support Enforcement Act of 1984 is federal law authorizing district and state attorneys the right to collect arrearages and to impose penalties on the non-paying parent. The penalties may include:

  • Garnishing wages 
  • Intercepting unemployment insurance
  • Intercepting tax return
  • Suspending driver's license
  • Suspending a professional license
  • Placing a lien on the home or other property
  • Freezing bank accounts
  • Filing a civil contempt order, which could result in jail time or a diversion program

Can a Parent in Michigan Stop Visitation if the Other Parent Fails to Pay Support?

Custody and visitation rights are completely separate from child support. One parent cannot prevent a child from visiting with the non-paying parent on the ground of failure to pay child support. Keeping a child from the non-paying parent can create legal problems for the custodial parent. 

Contact a Child Support Lawyer in Michigan Today

At North Oakland Michigan Divorce Law, our child support lawyer wants what is in the best interest of the child. That means child support should be paid. If the parent cannot afford it, the parent should go through the proper process to request a modification. If you want to know what to do in your unique situation, contact us today either online or at (248) 608-4123 to schedule a consultation and find out what your legal options are.

About the Author

Cameron Goulding

A native of Oakland County, Michigan, family lawyer Cameron C. Goulding has been providing counseling and legal services of the highest caliber to individuals and families in Southeastern Michigan for over 24 years. Mr. Goulding grew up in Oakland County, Michigan and graduated from Birmingham G...


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