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How Does Unemployment Affect Child Support and Spousal Support?


Michigan’s Approach to Support Calculations During Unemployment

Not surprisingly, unemployment is on the rise.  If you recently became unemployed or your income decreased, will your child or spousal support be reduced?   Most Michigan family law attorneys will answer “yes”; we would want to be more careful and say “maybe”.  Of course, we’ll explain why our answer is more hesitant than others.

Child support might not change because it could depend on your actions.

We continue to be surprised how many payors of support believe that their child support will automatically decrease when they lose their job.  Payors of support believe that when the Friend of the Court no longer can garnish their wages, they will also stop the child support obligation.  Unfortunately, this belief is drastically wrong.  You must file a Motion and obtain a court order to change the amount of support.  If you don’t, your support will not change, and you will owe a lot of arrearages or back child support.

Spousal support will not change if it is non modifiable.

Spouses have the option of agreeing to non-modifiable support.  Before you request to change spousal support, read the terms of your Judgment and spousal support order.

Alimony might not change because you have seasonable employment.

If your income changes from year to year, your support order may be based on the average income for the past three years.  Even if your income decreased due to Covid-19, if your average income for the past three years is the same, your support order may not decrease.

Support might not change because it was a short term lay off.

When child support is calculated, the court will review your annual income.  If you were laid off for a few weeks, your overall annual income may not have changed enough to reach the threshold to have your support order change.

Next steps…

If you are unemployed, your best option is to contact a Grand Rapids family law or divorce attorney immediately to have your income and current support order(s) reviewed. 

Next, you should keep track of all your efforts to find new employment.  We will likely need to show to the judge that you tried to find similar employment.

Lastly and most importantly, start this process right away.  Child or spousal support will not be amended retroactively.  We look forward to hearing from you!