When Can You Deviate from Michigan’s Child Support Formula?

Michigan law provides a formula for calculating child support. The formula provides an amount of child support to be awarded in a specific case, and there is a rebuttable presumption that the amount arrived at through the formula is correct.

If you ask the court to award you a higher or lower amount, you bear the burden of proving that the formula would result in an inappropriate or unjust result. However, there is a long list of factors that can justify a deviation, including a catch-all provision that the court may order a deviation as long as it is in the child's best interests.

The judge may deviate from the formula in the following circumstances:

  • The child has special needs or extraordinary educational expenses.
  • The parent is a minor.
  • The child is living in a household that has an annual income that would qualify it for public assistance and at least one parent has the means to pay additional support that would raise the child's standard of living.
  • A parent has a reduced ability to pay due to extraordinary levels of debt. This factor is only relevant if the debt was incurred jointly by both parents.
  • The court has awarded other property in place of child support.
  • The parent is incarcerated and has little or no income or assets.
  • A parent has incurred extraordinary medical expenses.
  • A parent earns a high income that is "not fully taken into consideration" by the formula.
  • A parent receives income from a bonus that is irregular or of varying amounts.
  • A third party can supply appropriate health insurance that will cover the child.
  • A parent provides substantially all the support of a stepchild, and the stepchild's parents cannot earn income.
  • The child has his or her own "extraordinary" income.
  • The court orders a parent to pay bills, such as those for taxes, mortgage payments or insurance premiums, before the entry of a final judgment.
  • A parent is liable to pay restitution, fines or other costs related to conviction of a crime.
  • A parent is making payments to a bankruptcy plan or to get a debt discharged.
  • A parent provides more child care or pays a greater percentage of the child's costs than would be expected based on the formula for offsets for parental time.
  • The child is in the custody of a third party but the amount of time that the parent spends with the child reduces the third party's expenses.
  • The court had ordered spousal support payments before October 2004 and the payments cannot be modified by law.
  • The parent's share of net child-care expenses exceeds a certain amount, taking into account the division of parental time and the basic support obligation.
  • Any other factor that the court believes is relevant to the child's best interests.

You should consult with an experienced family lawyer to determine your obligations and ensure the proper amount of support is being paid. If you are in the Detroit metropolitan area, make an appointment for a consultation with Michael A. Robbins. Attorney Robbins, with more than 30 years of experience, devotes his time exclusively to family law matters.