Changing Child Custody or Child Support

If you have a child and do not reside with the child’s other parent, you probably have some sort of arrangement in place for child custody and child support.  Many people with child custody arrangements are unhappy with those arrangements and would like to see them change, but do not always know when or how to make those changes.  Similarly, people paying or receiving child support may believe that the amount paid should be adjusted, and do not know how when or how to request that adjustment.  Both child custody and child support are subject to being changed by the court, under the right circumstances, and a lawyer who understands Michigan child custody and child support laws can help you get a better arrangement for you and your child.

In Michigan, there are two types of child custody- legal and physical.  Legal custody deals with making important decisions for a child, such as where the child goes to school and decisions about the child’s welfare.  Physical custody deals with where the child lives.  Child custody is decided based on the “best interests of the child.”  There are a number of factors courts consider when making custody decisions in the best interests of the child, including the affection between the child and parent(s), the ability of the parents to care for the child, where the child has lived in a stable, healthy environment, the physical and mental health of the parents, a history of violence from either parent, and any other factors that a judge considers to be relevant.

Once a judge makes a decision about child custody, either parent can ask to have the order changed for “proper cause” or a “change of circumstances.”  The parent asking for the change must show that there is some important reason, more than just a normal life change, to justify changing a child custody order.  Ultimately, the court’s goal is to do what is best for the child, and uprooting children from established caring environments is considered unfavorable.  This means that if your child is safe, happy, and established with the current situation, there is a higher burden to meet for the court to order a change.  A child custody lawyer can help you evaluate your child’s current situation to determine whether a court is likely to order a change in custody.

Child support is a parent’s court-ordered payment to help with the costs of raising a child, and may or may not relate to the child’s physical or legal custody.  Unlike child custody, which relies on a judge’s opinion of what is in the child’s best interests, there is a formula for determining child support.  The formula takes into account the parents’ income, the number of nights the child spends with each parent, the number of children being supported, and the costs of caring for the child, among other things.  The court may vary from the formula if the result would be unfair or inappropriate, or if the parents have made another arrangement, but generally the formula is followed.

Child support can be changed if either parent makes a written request for a review.  This request can be done through Friend of the Court in some circumstances, or either parent can file a motion to ask the court to change child support.  Reasons a court might change a child support order would include a change in the child custody arrangement or a change in either parent’s income.  If a change occurs and you want to adjust a child support award, it is important to take action right away, as courts generally do not go back and change amounts owed from before the change is requested.

Just like parents, courts seek to do what is best for children in child custody and child support matters.  To make sure that your voice is heard when it comes to deciding what is best for your child, you want a child support or child custody lawyer who understands the law and will help you get the best result for you and your child.  To make an appointment with a Gold Star Law child custody or child support lawyer, contact us.