A recent Detroit Free Press article and ABC News article discussed the case of a Western Michigan dad of 23 kids who was sentenced to jail for owing over $500,000 in child support.
First, this case is obviously unique, as he has fathered over 20 children. It is also unique because of the excessive amount of overdue child support. However, prison sentences are not as uncommon as you may think.
In Michigan, child support obligations are enforced by not only the courts, but also the local prosecutors and even the attorney general’s office. For non-payment of child support, the Friend of the Court can garnish your tax refunds, suspend your drivers license, file a lien against your property, report the debt to credit agencies, garnish a private pension or retirement, and issue a bench warrant for your arrest. Additionally, in cases where the amount of support owing is excessive, the Friend of the Court can refer the case to the local prosecutor for felony charges. Felony non-support cases can result in jail sentences, as evidenced by the results of the case involving the deadbeat dad with 23 kids.
What people don’t always realize is that child support is modifiable in Michigan. The Friend of the Court will conduct an automatic review of child support every 36 months. However, if there is a substantial change in income, a parent can file a request for modification and have it reviewed, even if it hasn’t been 36 months.
The lesson is clear—if there is a substantial change in income, it is important to request modification of child support. If the person paying child support becomes delinquent, the penalties can be excessive and extreme, and, in some cases, avoidable.