CHILD SUPPORT MODIFICATION
This page contains information about various ways to change child support orders.
Michigan law allows child support orders to be changed when there has been a “substantial change of circumstances”. Examples of a substantial change of circumstances would be a change or loss of employment, a promotion, a modification of the custody or parenting time arrangement, or a party having additional children in a subsequent relationship. While courts differ in their interpretation of what constitutes a “substantial” change of circumstance, usually a small pay raise or cost of living increase does not meet that standard. If the support order would change less than $50 per month, usually no change will be made.
a) FOC Review.
One method of getting support changed is through the FOC review process. Each party has the right to request a FOC investigation of the amount of child support every three years. The request must be submitted in writing. You may also send a request for review by e-mail to FOC@cassco.org. Be sure to include your name, the other parties name, and your case number if you know it, with your written or e-mail request.
If public assistance is involved, the three-year review will be automatic, without the need for a request. The FOC will conduct an investigation of each party’s income.
In some cases, the FOC is required to periodically review child support provisions (including healthcare) and file a motion for a change in the order if a change is found to be proper. When reviewing support, the FOC office may request information from a parent’s employer, including the parent’s address, social security number, date of birth, wages earned, and dependent health care coverage available as a benefit of employment.
If ordered by the court, the FOC will conduct a financial investigation and make a written report and recommendation to the parties and the court regarding child support. FOC reports cannot be used as evidence in court without the agreement of both parties. However, the FOC investigator may be called as a witness to testify about the report and recommendation. The Judge may read the report whether or not the parties agree.
Financial questionnaires will be sent to each parent. It is very important that you fill out the questionnaire completely and accurately and return it promptly. The FOC will rely on these questionnaires in making its recommendation. Failure to complete and return the questionnaire may result in the FOC making a “best guess” about your income, and you may not agree with their determination. If accurate information is received, the resulting recommendation is more likely to be correct, and much delay and aggravation can be avoided.
After the financial review, the FOC will make a written recommendation regarding the modification of child support. The recommendation will be sent to both parties. This recommendation will become a final order if neither party files written objections within 21 days. If a parent objects to the recommendation, the objections must be put in writing and provided to the FOC within 21 days from the time the recommendation is mailed.
If an objection is received within the 21 days, a hearing date will be set before the referee about the objection. Both parties will be notified of the hearing date and both should attend if they wish to have their position heard. After the hearing, the referee will prepare a temporary order that will become a final order if no one objects within 21 days.
If a parent disagrees with the referee’s recommendation, the objections must be put in writing and provided to the FOC within 21 days. The Judge will then review the matter, and may affirm or reverse the referee without a further hearing. If, however, the Judge determines that a hearing is necessary, a hearing date will be set before the Judge and the parties will be notified of the hearing date. After the hearing, a final order will be entered.
b) Motion to Modify Support Form: Motion Regarding Support (found under downloadable forms on this website)
Another method to try to get your support changed is to file a motion to modify support. This can be done through a private attorney, or if you wish to represent yourself, the FOC has forms available to assist you. Usually, the motion will be heard by the referee and a temporary order will be issued. A party can file an objection to the referee recommendation in the same manner as described above.
If you want to change your orders for custody, parenting time, child or medical support, or domicile, and the other parent will not agree to those changes, you must petition the Court for amended orders, despite the other parent’s objections. If you are unable to afford an attorney, forms are available through the FOC office for your use to act as your own attorney.
Michigan law requires courts to distribute forms to assist parties interested in representing themselves without an attorney for some purposes. Forms are available through the FOC office for custody, parenting time, child and medical support and change of domicile / legal residence actions. Personal protection orders packets are available only through the Circuit Court Clerk. FOC or Clerk staff will copy your papers for $1 per page, so it is usually less expensive to have them copied somewhere else.
Court staff can instruct you as to what type of information should be put in the forms, but they are not allowed to advise you what specific answers you should put on the forms. They will assist you by scheduling hearing dates and advising you of times and locations. Court staff cannot give legal advice; they can advise you what options you have, but not what available option you should choose.
If you will choose to represent yourself, you will be acting as your own attorney. You will be held to the same rules of conduct, presentation of evidence, and court procedure, as a licensed attorney would. You must come to court prepared to present your evidence, explain your case, call witnesses and question them, and provide the court with reasons why it should rule in your favor. Neither the Judge nor the Referee can help you present your case.
Never bring minor children to your hearing. Minor children are not permitted in the hearing room or courtroom, and will not be permitted to testify. Pre-verbal infants should be left with a suitable childcare provider outside of the Courthouse. You may ask the Court to privately interview the minor child after hearing, in the Referee’s or Judge’s chambers.
In some cases, you may be responsible for preparing the Order for the Judge to sign at the end of your hearing, although in most cases the FOC will prepare the order. However, it is very important that you take complete and clear notes at the hearing, and ask questions if you do not understand something. This will help you if you do need to prepare the order, or if you think the order prepared by the FOC does not agree with what the Referee or Judge ordered.
c) Settlement Conferences
In most instances, a settlement conference will be conducted before a referee hearing. A representative of the FOC will meet with the parties and explore possible settlement possibilities. If a settlement is reached, a consent order can be entered. If no settlement occurs, the referee will hear the motion and make a recommendation.
d) Stipulation to Modify Support
If both parties agree to change support, in some cases the FOC can assist in obtaining the agreed changes. However, some restrictions apply because of the state law that generally requires compliance with the Michigan Child Support Formula, and the filing of a Motion to Change Support may be required. If you wish to change your child support, contact the Support Modification staff at the FOC for more information.
e) Stipulations: General Information
Packets for parental agreements regarding custody, parenting time, and domicile are available to parents through the FOC’s office and on this website. Using these forms can be done with or without an attorney’s assistance.
• sign a Stipulation you do not fully understand.
• sign a Stipulation you cannot live with.
• sign a Stipulation if you are being pressured, coerced, or if it is against your wishes or agreement in any way.
• hesitate to consult with a lawyer to review any Stipulation you are considering signing, if you want legal advice regarding its item’s, you and the other parent’s responsibilities under it, etc.
Make certain every agreement you have reached with the other parent is included. If an agreement is not clearly set out in your Stipulation, it does not become an order, and it will not be enforceable. By signing a Stipulation, you are saying you understand each and every term of the document and willingly agree with the other parent to be bound by an order based upon the terms of your agreement.
Both parties must sign the agreement. The FOC will then review your Stipulation. If there are problems with your Stipulation, it will be returned you and you and the other party will be required to correct it and do it over again.
At least one of you may be required to attend a brief hearing to provide additional information or testimony before your agreement can be entered as your new order. The court is not required to approve your Stipulation if it is determined to be contrary to the best interests of the child or children. Until you receive a copy of your new order after it has been approved by the Judge and filed with the Court Clerk, your old order will still be in effect.
If signed by the Judge, your Stipulation will become the new order in your case. You will be legally bound by its terms. A stipulated order is enforceable under the law. If you violate the terms of the order, you are subject to legal enforcement action being taken against you, including but not limited to contempt proceedings, additional court orders, court and/or legal costs, and perhaps even jail.
If one of you later disagrees with the terms of your order, that does not change or end either parent’s responsibility to comply with the current order.
Once signed and entered by the Court as the new order in your case, there are two options for changing it:
• Reach a new agreement with the other parent/party and submit a new Stipulation to the Court for entry, or
• File a petition with the Court for a change that the other party opposes.