Child Support in Michigan: Child Support Debt Rises

By Minara El-Rahman on December 11, 2009 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Detroit News reports that child support debt keeps growing in Michigan. The reason for the child support debt growth? Laws governing child support in Michigan require that a surcharge be placed on payments for child support of delinquent parents.

The surcharges, which started back in 1996 was put into Mighigan child support law in order to encourage timely payments of child support. Instead, it now accounts for approximately $9.2 billion dollars in back child support that is owed to the state of Michigan. Michigan now ranks at number three among states with the largest amounts of child support debt.

Marilyn Stephen, director of the state Office of Child Support told Detroit News that the state surcharge is a key reason for the child support debt because it compounds the debt of delinquent payers by adding interest onto overdue back payments. She said: "The reality is that it seems to have disincentivized payers."

Approximately half of the states in the U.S. charge some type of interest on child support debt. It is viewed as a way to enforce that child support is paid on time. However is does bring the the question:

What Are Some Common Ways to Enforce Child Support Payments?

  • Wage Deduction Orders: a court orders an employer to sends a portion of the obligor-parent's wages to a state agency, which then sends the money to the parent who has custody of the child.
  • Tax Refunds: For parents who are behind in support payments, the state also can intercept federal and state tax refunds.
  • License Revocation: Another technique to try to force payment of child support is to make the granting or renewal of certain types of licenses contingent on payment of support. Some licenses that could be revoked are: driver's licenses and professional licenses.
  • Contempt of Court: A finding of contempt of court can result in a fine, a jail term, or both. If the parent cannot pay support for a good reason, such as loss of a job without fault of the parent, a court will not find the parent in contempt, but the obligation to pay support continues.

While these are some other ways to ensure that child support payments are made in a timely manner, parents owing child support in Michigan may have a good reason that they can't make child support payments.

Michigan has one of the country's highest unemployment rates at 15%. Some parents are not trying to be deadbeats, they just can't afford to make payments. Add interest to child support debt that they can't pay off, and you have a recipe for disaster. It seems that the state does not take the excuse of unemployment lightly. Ms. Nancy Neff, assistant prosecuting attorney for Michigan told Detroit News: "We're hearing more and more that people aren't employed. Are people in financial straits? Absolutely. Are they completely without resources? No."

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