Most Common Myths Regarding Support, Parenting Time, Custody and the Friend of the Court
Myth: There is a specific age in Michigan where a child gets to decide where he/she wants to live.
Fact: The preference of a child is only one of twelve factors when considering a custody change. The age and maturity of a child may be considered by the court when considering a custodial change.
Myth: Joint physical custody means equal parenting time with both parents and no child support.
Fact: Joint physical custody may result in an array of parenting time arrangements to fit the needs of child/ren and support is calculated accordingly.
Myth: We each have a child living with us therefore neither of us should pay support.
Fact: The number of children and their placement are only two issues considered when calculating the appropriate child support obligation. The child support guidelines also calculate a child support obligation based on each parent’s actual income or the ability to earn income.
Myth: If I can’t see the children, I don’t have to pay child support / If I didn’t get child support, I don’t have to send the children.
Fact: Child Support and Parenting Time are considered separate issues for enforcement purposes.
Myth: A parent can sign off his/her parental rights.
Fact: The prosecuting attorney may file a petition to terminate parental rights in cases of severe abuse and neglect; however a parent cannot sign a document that releases his/her responsibility to support the child.
Myth: I have the right to know how the child support money I pay is being spent.
Fact: There is no law that mandates the recipient of support to account for how he/she spends the support money.
Myth: If I send a letter stating I’m unemployed, the FOC will change the amount I pay for child support.
Fact: Child support can only be modified by either Party filing a petition, or requesting a review of support if it has been three years since the last review of support.
Myth: If I tell something to one person in the government, everyone else in the government who needs to know will find out about it.
Fact: Reporting of information must be done in writing directly to the Friend of the Court office.
Myth: Even though the order says I must pay child support through the Michigan Child Support Disbursement Unit (MiSDU), I can make support payments directly to my ex without consequences.
Fact: Direct payments are considered gifts and will not be credited against your support account unless a signed written request to forgive such money is sent to the FOC by the recipient of support.
Myth: If I send a letter stating that the other parent and I have reconciled, the Friend of the Court will stop charging child support.
Fact: To modify a court order regarding child support, a petition must be filed or a stipulated order must be filed with the Court.
Myth: My intercepted tax return will cover the child support so therefore I don’t have to send in this month’s support.
Fact: Child support must be paid on a monthly basis. Intercepted taxes may take up to six months to be applied to the account.
Myth: My child told me that the other parent was mean and yelled at her last weekend and she doesn’t want to go back, therefore she should not have to go.
Fact: The court order regarding parenting time must be adhered to. The custodial parent is responsible for ensuring the child follows the court ordered parenting time and risks being in contempt of court if the order is disobeyed.
Myth: I am unhappy at work. If I quit my job and take a lower paying job or start my own business, child support will be reduced to reflect this change.
Fact: If a payer of support quits a job, the Court may view the act as an unexercised ability to earn income and refuse to modify the support amount.
Myth: My children are with me during the school break, therefore I do not have to pay child support during this time.
Fact: Child support must continue to be paid on a monthly basis even though the children may be residing with the payer of support. Most orders allow for the payer of support to get a 50% retroactive abatement when the child spends six or more consecutive overnights with the non-custodial parent.
Myth: If I write a letter to the FOC saying I am injured and cannot work, child support will stop.
Fact: Child support will continue to charge and the Friend of the Court will enforce support until the order is modified by the court. If this situation should occur, you should request a child support review (if child support has not been reviewed within the last three years) or file a motion seeking a review of support.
Myth: The other parent has not seen my child in a long time therefore he/she no longer has any parenting time rights.
Fact: The Friend of the Court will continue to enforce the present parenting time order until the order is modified by the court.
Myth: The other parent and I have come to an agreement about parenting time and child support. If I send our agreement to Friend of the court order is changed to reflect our agreement.
Fact: The Friend of the Court will continue to enforce the parenting time and child support order until the order is modified by the court. You may request the Friend of the Court to submit the written agreement to the Court for entry as an order.
Myth: My child is involved in activities that take precedence over parenting time. The other parent must make arrangements for the child to participate during his/her parenting time.
Fact: Each parent decides what activities the child participates in, if any, during his/her parenting time.
Myth: My child is now living with me. If I write a letter advising the Friend of the Court of this, custody will change and child support will stop.
Fact: If the child is residing with the payer of support on a permanent full time basis, the child support may be abated to reflect this change, but custody will not change until a petition is filed to modify the order, or until a stipulated order is entered by the Court.
Myth: It is important to discuss issues of child support and other legal issues with my children so that they will understand how unreasonable the other parent has been.
Fact: Court related issues should not be discussed with the children. Doing so only exposes the children to unnecessary stress, conflict, and confusion. Both parents should do their utmost to keep the children “out of the middle.”
(Reprinted in part with permission from the Eaton County Circuit Court)