What Are the Sentencing Guidelines in Michigan for Nonpayment of Child Support?

by Andrine Redsteer

    In Michigan, when a court orders a noncustodial parent to pay child support, he must do so until the child turns 18 years old. If a child is still in high school, the noncustodial parent must provide support until the child turns 19 1/2 years old. When a parent violates a child support order, he may face criminal prosecution, jail time and/or fines.

    Friend of the Court

    In Michigan, child support enforcement is typically overseen by an officer of the court known as a "friend of the court," or FOC. When a noncustodial parent does not pay child support according to the terms of the child support order, the FOC may initiate court proceedings. During these court proceedings, a judge makes determinations regarding failure to comply with the terms of the original child support order.

    Contempt of Court Penalties

    When a noncustodial parent fails to pay child support on time, an FOC may initiate a contempt of court action. The parent ordered to pay child support must appear before the court and "show cause" as to why he is not in contempt of court -- this is called a "show cause hearing." Failure to appear may result in a bench warrant for arrest. Moreover, if the nonpaying parent is found in contempt of court after a show-cause hearing, Michigan's sentencing guidelines allow for up to 45 days in jail, or 90 days in jail for a second offense, and/or fines of up to $250.

    Posting Bond

    If a parent is arrested pursuant to a bench warrant, Michigan law requires the parent to post a bond of a minimum of $500. Typically, the bond amount required is 25 percent of child support arrearages; if bond is not posted, the parent may remain incarcerated until his trial.

    Criminal Nonpayment Penalties

    According to Michigan's statutes, a parent may be charged with a felony for nonpayment of child support if the parent is willfully withholding support payments. Generally, nonpayment of child support may result in a felony conviction only if the parent repeatedly fails to make child support payments and willfully withholds those payments. If convicted of felony nonpayment, Michigan's sentencing guidelines allow a court to order the non-paying parent to spend up to four years in prison and/or to pay fines of up to $2,000.

    Other Penalties

    Michigan's primary method of collecting child support payments is via automatic paycheck deductions. However, if support payments cannot be obtained via automatic paycheck deductions, support may be collected by intercepting tax refunds. Furthermore, a non-paying parent in Michigan may face other penalties such as suspension of recreational and driver's licenses, property liens and a lower credit score as a result of reports to credit reporting agencies of arrearages.

    About the Author

    Andrine Redsteer's writing on tribal gaming has been published in "The Guardian" and she continues to write about reservation economic development. Redsteer holds a Bachelor of Arts in history from the University of Washington, a Master of Arts in Native American studies from Montana State University and a Juris Doctor from Seattle University School of Law.