Child support: Lesser known legal provisions

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Marie E. Matyjaszek

With tax season upon us, money remains at the forefront of many people’s minds and it seemed like an opportune time to touch on some of the lesser-known provisions in the child support formula. Below are some provisions from the 2021 Michigan Child Support Formula Manual that might catch clients by surprise.

When the court is calculating income, it can include “perks” that the parent receives through his or her job. Those can include benefits that reduce personal expenses, and are received regularly and/or are significantly valuable. This can include a company car that the employee can use personally; mileage reimbursement; housing monies; and food.  However, it does not include tuition reimbursement, HSA (Health Savings Account) contributions, or uniforms.

If your long-lost relative left you an inheritance, the property or principal from the inheritance (or a “one and done” present) is generally not considered income, but the interest and potential interest earned on it can be.

Similarly, if you have a really nice family member or friend who likes to bestow gifts upon you in the form of cash, food, shelter, or a car, the value of those items may be considered income. If great aunt Martha lets you live in her semi-finished walkout basement rent free, that could come into play when determining child support. To be considered, these items also should reduce your personal expenses or “[replace] or [supplement] employment income.” However, gifts from a current spouse do not apply.

The court can include the cost that a parent’s spouse pays for a child’s or children’s health insurance, with the manual allowing “amounts paid by the parent’s household as the parent’s premiums paid to insure the children.” If the court orders that the insurance be covered in this way, the parent is “required to purchase coverage immediately should the alternative coverage stop.” If the spouse provides insurance for the parent in the case, that parent does not receive the self-coverage credit.

Money that is received from either parent or the child that is Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is not includable in the formula as income, nor can it be used to offset the child support amount like Social Security Disability (SSD) income can. SSI, along with TANF funds, food stamps and the federal earned income credit, are considered forms of “means tested income” and are not used in the formula. 

The formula manual and its supplement are large and complicated, and things are often overlooked, so hopefully this eliminates some of the confusion. Surprises are only fun when they sparkle.

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Marie Matyjaszek is an attorney referee at the Washtenaw County Friend of the Court; however, the views expressed in this column are her own. She can be reached at matyjasz@hotmail.com.) 




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