In Michigan, the friend of the court may enforce a court's order for child support by withholding, or garnishing, a parent's wages. The friend of the court may also garnish both state and federal tax returns, to a certain limit. Under some circumstances, a parent who is owed child support can initiate garnishment, and at other times, the friend of the court is required by law to initiate garnishment.
Child Support Amount
When determining the amount of child support owed, the court must apply the Michigan Child Support Formula. The formula is based on the needs of the child and actual resources of each parent. The court will consider things such as the income of both parents, size of the family, cost of childcare, cost of dependent healthcare coverage, and any other criteria the court finds to be compelling. Under the Michigan Child Support Formula, the age of the child is not taken into consideration.
There is a particular procedure for withholding income, or garnishing wages, for child support under Michigan law. Garnishment is available to a parent who is owed current child support as well as for a parent that is owed arrearages, or past due child support. Only the friend of the court may initiate a garnishment. In fact, the friend of the court must do so if a parent is more than one month behind in making payments. The friend of the court will send notice to the parent who owes child support and schedule a hearing, at which time the friend of the court will determine whether to garnish wages or if the court should modify the child support order.
Under both Michigan and federal law, there are limitations as to how much income may be garnished. Under Michigan law, only 50 percent of a parent's disposable income may be withheld for child support. Disposable income is the money left over after legally required deductions, such as taxes, are withheld from wages. Under federal law, only 50 percent of a parent's disposable income may be garnished for child support if the parent is also supporting another family. However, 60 percent of disposable income may be garnished for child support, if the parent is not supporting another family.
Garnishing Tax Refunds
Tax refunds can also be garnished to pay child support. Under Michigan law, $150 may be withheld from a state tax refund. Federal law allows for garnishment of $500 from a federal tax refund. Typically, the Office of Child Support sends the parent written notice of the proposed tax garnishment so he is aware of it and has an opportunity to contest the garnishment.