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Michigan Family Law Blog

Friday, November 11, 2016

You Can’t Punt on Your Child Support Obligations

Q: What happens if I can’t afford to pay my child support payment?

When a couple divorces, the needs of the children are top priority and that includes financial support. Child support is the monthly payment the non-custodial parent is required to pay to the custodial parent. The amount is determined based on a statutory mathematical formula that factors in figures including the parent’s income and the number of children. Generally, child support remains an obligation until the child reaches the age of 18, but sometimes longer if the child is still attending high school with a reasonable likelihood of graduating.

The term “Deadbeat Dad” was coined to label non-custodial fathers who failed to provide their children with love and support-- whether it was a failure to pay child support or to show up for anticipated child visitation. To be fair, there are deadbeat moms, too. But not every failure to pay child support is intentional; sometimes circumstances impact a parent’s ability to pay. In such cases, parents should consult an attorney skilled in handling a modification of the child support order for advice on whether their particular circumstances might warrant an adjustment in the child support award.

Unless a parent files a request for a modification of a child support order--often based an inability to pay the required support due to a significant change of circumstances—they are expected to pay the court-ordered amount of child support each month. Failure to do so can result in serious consequences including but not limited to wage, pension, or tax refund garnishment or even imprisonment.

Former NFL player, Andre Rison, has tackled such personal struggles as child support delinquency, marijuana use and rehabilitation, and probation violation in the court system over the past several years. In 2012, he was ordered to pay a minimum of $1000 per month toward a child support delinquency in excess of $300,000 for his son and was put on probation for five years. Reportedly, the terms of his probation expressly prohibited him from using marijuana, even for medicinal purposes, but court records indicate multiple instances where Rison tested positive for marijuana use during his probation and he admitted to its medicinal use.

Despite violating probation, Rison has managed to avoid a prison term so far, though any future violation threatens to change that. He claimed he’s earned much less in the years since he played in the NFL and that it’s been difficult to make the child support payments for his son while also supporting the four daughters that live with him.

As a result of his most recent court appearance, the judge ordered that $922 per month of the $1000 per month child support obligation will be garnished from Rison’s NFL pension, leaving him responsible to pay the remaining $78 per month directly and  abide by the other terms of his probation which runs through 2018.

If you are considering divorce, or are already divorced and need advice about the modification of a child support order, the Michigan law firm of Byers & Goulding provides experienced, one-on-one legal services to families throughout Oakland, Macomb, Genesee, Livingston, Lapeer and Wayne counties. Contact us here or call 248.608.4123 for a free consultation.


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