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Bloomfield Family Law Blog

How does child support work in Michigan?

When Michigan parents decide to split, you need dedicated legal help to ensure that your child will receive the best possible post-divorce living situation. This is where Lisa Stern comes in, aiding families like yours through a divorce and supporting your child in the most effective ways.

Knowing how child support payments are determined and how you can deviate from that formula are both very important. The formula itself can be somewhat complex because it is determined by many different factors. These factors include:

  • How many children you have
  • Your income
  • Your spouse's income
  • How many overnight visits each parent has

Can you change a parenting schedule?

When you and your spouse are divorced in Michigan, you usually have a parenting schedule so both of you can spend time with your child. Sometimes, though, you may realize that your parenting plan is no longer working for you and your child. In this situation, this schedule can sometimes be changed.

According to Michigan Legal Help, you can usually change your parenting schedule only if there is a change in your circumstances. This can include situations such as a change in your child's school schedule or your work schedule. More serious situations can also be a reason to modify this plan. If your ex-spouse is neglecting your child or has developed an addiction, a judge might consider a new schedule for you and your child. In some situations, your child may simply want to spend more time with you. This is usually not considered a change in your circumstances, though, and this kind of situation typically does not meet the requirements needed to modify your schedule.

Is Michigan a community property state?

If you are a Michigan resident contemplating divorce, you probably are concerned about how the property, assets and debts you and your spouse accumulated during your marriage will be distributed between you. As FindLaw explains, Michigan is not one of the community property states. Instead, Michigan adheres to the “equitable distribution” doctrine that takes your needs and those of your spouse into account when determining which of you gets what.

It is important for you to understand that everything you and your spouse acquired during your marriage, and whatever debts you undertook to acquire them, is considered to be marital property even though it is not community property. What this means is that if, for instance, you purchased a car during your marriage, paid for it with your own earnings, and did not put your spouse’s name on the title, you are the car’s owner and you probably will continue to own it after your divorce, although this is not a guaranteed assumption.

What things can a prenuptial agreement cover?

If you are a Michigan resident who is planning to get married soon, you may be wondering whether or not signing a prenuptial agreement is a good idea for you and your soon-to-be spouse. FindLaw explains that prenuptial agreements are a legal step that many engaged couples take prior to getting married. While traditionally thought advantageous only for wealthy people, prenups can benefit others as well since they set forth the agreements the parties have come to regarding their property and financial rights and obligations should the marriage end in divorce.

Given that many states, including Michigan, distinguish between marital and separate property when assets are divided during a divorce, a prenup can solve that possible future dilemma. You and your fiancé can agree on what types of property belong to each of you separately, as opposed to jointly, in the event your marriage ends in divorce or one of you dies. In addition, a prenup can cover other matters, including the following:

  • Limiting the types of marital debt for which you are responsible
  • Providing for children you have by a previous relationship
  • Keeping a family business or family heirlooms and inheritances in your family
  • Protecting any estate plan you already have in existence
  • Setting forth any agreements you and your fiancé may have with regard to your own investments, retirement benefits, income tax deductions, credit card purchases and payments, 401(k) contributions, etc.

Can you and your child move to another state?

If you are a divorced Michigan parent whose company is planning to transfer you to another state, you may be nervous or even apprehensive about how your former spouse is going to react to your proposed relocation. Nevertheless, FindLaw explains that any time you want or need to move 100 or more miles from your present residence, whether or not it is to another state, the first thing you should do is advise your child’s other parent of your plans. If your former spouse refuses to give his or her consent, you will need to go to court and have a custody hearing to obtain a judge’s permission to move.

Michigan courts highly value parent-child relationships and the judge will require you to show good cause why he or she should interfere with your present custodial environment, thereby depriving your child’s other parent of his or her custodial and/or visitation rights. Consequently, your existing custodial arrangement will be of prime importance.

Understanding stepparent adoption

At the offices of family law attorney Lisa Stern in Michigan, we know that stepparent adoption can be a great benefit to everyone in a blended family. When you adopt your spouse’s children from a previous relationship, you are showing them how much you love them and that you want to be their forever parent. In addition, becoming the other legal parent of your spouse’s children gives you all the rights and privileges of biological parenthood, making it easier for you to participate in the medical, educational, religious and social decisions so crucial in their lives.

Stepparent adoption is a fairly simple court process in Michigan assuming that the biological parent losing his or her legal rights to the child(ren) voluntarily gives up those rights by consenting to the adoption. Once you file the adoption petition, the court schedules a hearing date when you, your spouse and the other biological parent must be present. The judge likely will ask the other biological parent if the decision to relinquish his or her parental rights is in fact voluntary. If the children being adopted are 14 years of age or older, they, too, must be present in court and the judge will ask them for their consent to the adoption.

What is parenting time?

If you are a Michigan resident contemplating divorce, one of your biggest concerns undoubtedly is the amount of time your children will spend with each parent after your divorce. As the Oakland County Friend of the Court explains, this is called parenting time.

Michigan law regarding parenting time is nonspecific in nature, and you and your spouse are encouraged to cooperate with each other and develop your own parenting time schedules, taking into consider the following things:

  • Your child’s age
  • Your child’s school schedule
  • Each parent’s work schedule
  • How far away you and your ex-spouse live from each other

What can and can't you use child support payments on?

Divorced parents in Michigan like you will likely be receiving some form of child support payment. These payments are specifically meant to help you make up the difference when it comes to the lost income that your ex-spouse was bringing into the family. It is designed for use on your child. So what exactly can and can't child support payments be used for?

HuffPost states that many extracurricular activities are not budgeted into child support payments, even if they enrich or enhance your child's life. These little extras may seem important, but are unfortunately likely going to be left up to you to handle. They can include things like:

  • Photobooks or yearbooks
  • Musical instruments or lessons
  • All related expenses for sports
  • College funds
  • Private lessons
  • Tutors

How custody is decided when parents cannot agree

Michigan courts recognize that divorce is an emotional period for everyone in the family. They also know that matters can become heated between parents who are soon to be ex-spouses and sometimes, agreeing on anything seems impossible. That is why family law is structured to uphold the best interests of the child.

According to state law, courts encourage families to work out custody and visitation issues for themselves. But make no mistake: It is the court that has final say in these and other matters involving minors caught up in a divorce.

How is child custody determined in different divorce situations?

When faced with having to make decisions about child custody, Michigan parents like you will have a lot of options to sort through. Will you have joint custody? What will your visitation schedule look like? This is where professionals like Lisa Stern can step in, helping you decide which options would be the best for you, and most importantly, for your child.

First of all, your options for custody arrangements will often depend on the makeup of your family. For example, unmarried parents who are splitting up will have a different set of hurdles to cross than parents who have been married and are getting a divorce. LGBTQ couples will also have their own set of problems to sort through. If grandparents are involved, this can create more unusual situations. All of these scenarios must be addressed individually.

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