If We Agree, Will the Court Enter an Order For No Child Support?
In Michigan, child support is determined by a formula. This formula was created by the State legislature and according to statute, the court is to apply the formula in every case. However, as always in the law, there are some exceptions. Most of these exceptions can be easily found in the 2017 Michigan Child Support Formula Manual (If you are reading this after January 1, 2019, there should be an updated version, but most of the exceptions will remain the same).
One of the exceptions is where the parties agree to deviate from the child support formula. For the purposes of child support, deviation means entering a child support order that is in any way higher or lower than the amount determined by the formula. If the parents (the parties in legal parlance) want to enter a child support amount that is less (including no child support) or more than the formula based upon their agreement, then they must follow some very strict procedural guidelines in order to get the court to enter an order based upon their agreement. If the parties fail to follow the procedure, the court, according to statue should deny their request and enter an order for child support based upon the formula over the objections of the parents.
Very basically, the parents have to provide the court with the following information or the court cannot order the agreed upon child support (if it is different from the child support formula). The parties must tell the court what the amount would be if the court followed the formula, how the agreed-upon amount amount differs from the formula, and the reasons why the child support formula would be unjust in the particular case.
The biggest problem is always providing the proper reasons under the law to allow the court to deviate from the formula. Some reasons are simply not legally sufficient for the court to order what the parties want even if the judge wants to go along with the agreement. It can be a pretty big dilemma if the parties appear before the judge and provide a legally insufficient basis on the record as the reason for the deviation and then try to flounder around for a different more acceptable explanation. The result in such a case is almost always failure for obvious reasons. Finally, any parents attempting to appear in court should know that it is almost always a bad idea to claim the reason for deviation is that one party took on more debt, or was granted more property, or more money or accounts in the divorce or separation as a reason, because that will run afoul of another statute as well, which I am not getting into in this blog.
A good family law attorney should be able to provide a sufficient basis to either allow the judge to grant the deviation. In most cases where the lawyer lays the proper foundation, the court will go along with the agreement and enter an order for the agreed-upon child support, be that amount more than calculated under the formula, less that that or an agreement to waive it entirely.
If you have questions about child support, custody, parenting time or divorce, please contact my office by calling (248) 420-7419 or my assistant Cathy by email - [email protected] - to schedule a consultation regarding the specifics of the case.