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The Not-So-Straightforward Element of Child Support: Daycare

BY IN Custody

Michigan has adopted a child support formula. The guidelines start out pretty clear: “the court must order child support in the amount determined by this formula”. With the available software implementing the formula, calculating child support can be quite straightforward. But, then there is daycare; and most parents do not realize the significant impact of the daycare cost.
Consider these tricky scenarios.

During the child support investigation, mom claims that grandma provides daycare at a cost of $400 per week which is similar to or more than the affluent daycare centers in the area. Can she charge that much? Especially because mom just got a job earning $10 per hour; she’s paying more in daycare than she earns.

The solution to this problem is twofold. First, if dad has joint legal custody, he has equal decision-making power where the child goes to daycare. If mom wants to utilize $400 per week daycare, let’s shop around and enroll the child into an academic early learning program. Second, while the child support motion is pending, dad has the option to perform discovery. Let’s review those checks for $400 each week. If there are no checks, the judge will determine mom’s credibility if she is actually paying those fees.

Consider this: the Friend of the Court investigates the child support issue. Dad dutifully provides his income information. A few months later, he receives a recommendation. The amount of support is incredibly high, but when dad objects, the judge orders the same amount of support. What happened? During the investigation, mom claimed to use an astronomical amount in daycare expenses and provided a signed form by a family member that such daycare was utilized. In reality, that level of care was possibly provided for only a short period of time and was discontinued as soon as the child support order was entered.

Again, the solution is to be an involved dad. If you don’t have joint legal custody, ask for a joint legal custody order and become involved. Review your court order how much you are contributing to daycare. Are you able to provide daycare during mom’s working hours? If you know that mom is no longer employed, get child support amended to eliminate the daycare expense.

Lastly, some practical advice. While a child support motion is pending, make sure that you and your attorney perform some limited discovery to obtain proof how much daycare is being paid – not what the other party claims to be paying. Additionally, take time to be involved. You will never regret being an involved parent.