The Family Support Division of the Prosecutor’s Office is a part of the Child Support Enforcement (CSE) Program, established in 1975 under Title IV-D of the Social Security Act, to ensure that both parents financially support their children.
In cooperation with the Michigan Department of Human Services Office of Child Support (DHS/OCS), we serve residents of Alger County by establishing paternity and/or obtaining child support. Services are available for families receiving public assistance or to families who do not receive assistance but apply for our services through DHS/OCS.
Our office hours are 8:00 am to noon and 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. Monday - Friday.
HOW DO I START A CHILD SUPPORT CASE?
The Family Support Division (FSD) only handles cases that are referred by the Michigan Office of Child Support (OCS). Referrals are generated in two ways:
- If you apply for public assistance through the Michigan Department of Human Services and the other parent of the child is absent from the home, an automatic referral goes to OCS. OCS then makes a referral to the Family Support Division.
- You can ask for a referral to the Family Support Division by contacting OCS at 1-866-540-0008 or by completing the IV-D Child Support Services Application / Referral. You do not have to be on public assistance to request child support from an absent parent.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
Once the referral is received by the Family Support Division, we will send you a letter with an appointment time and a questionnaire. Please fill out the questionnaire and bring the completed questionnaire to your appointment.
If you do not go to your appointment, you may have your DHS benefits cut or diminished for non-cooperation.
WHAT HAPPENS AT THE APPOINTMENT?
You will meet with an employee of the FSD. He/she will give you a general explanation of how a child support case is handled and you can ask any questions you might have. The employee will take information from you and leave papers for you to sign.
HOW IS THE ABSENT PARENT NOTIFIED?
The lawsuit is then filed with the court and copies of the papers are mailed to the absent parent by certified mail.If service by certified mail is not successful, personal service by a process server/deputy sheriff will be attempted.
WHAT IF THE ABSENT PARENT DOES NOT COOPERATE?
Once the papers are served, the absent parent has a time limit in which to respond to the lawsuit. It is his/her obligation to keep the court informed of his/her address and to respond to requests for information. If he/she does not participate in the case, an order of support can be entered by “default”. Service of the papers on the defendant gives the court power to enter orders even if the absent parent does not cooperate.
WHAT IF I HAVE AN AGREEMENT WITH THE ABSENT PARENT FOR SUPPORT AND I DON'T WANT TO GET A SUPPORT ORDER?
If you are receiving public assistance, you must cooperate with seeking a support order or your benefits could be reduced or eliminated. If you are not receiving public assistance, you do not have to seek a support order; however, many parents shortchange their children by agreeing to an inadequate support amount. You would be wise to have child support determined using the Michigan Child Support Guidelines to make sure you are getting a fair amount.
HOW IS THE AMOUNT OF CHILD SUPPORT DETERMINED?
The FSD makes recommendations to the court as to what the child support amount (if any) should be. Michigan State Law has a Child Support Formula that is used to calculate support. FSD and the court must use this formula. The formula is mathematical and is written into computer software used by FSD in generating support recommendations. The formula takes into consideration each parent’s income or potential income, child care costs, overnight visits the absent parent has with the child, and whether the parties are supporting children from other relationships.
WHAT IF THE ABSENT PARENT IS NOT WORKING AND HAS NO INCOME?
It is the obligation of everyone to support their own children. If a parent is unemployed, the court will determine if the parent has the ability to earn and their income will be set according to their ability. This is called “imputing” income.
WHAT IS A PATERNITY CASE?
If you have a child and are getting public assistance, and no legal father has been established, you must name the person you feel is most likely to be the father. Legal fatherhood exists when the father has signed an Affidavit of Paternity or you were married to the father at the time of conception.
The FSD then files a lawsuit to determine paternity. The papers are signed at your meeting with FSD personnel and are served in the same manner as a support case. The papers served on the alleged father (called a “putative father”) contain a letter requesting he participate in a genetic (DNA) test. The genetic test consists of collecting DNA samples from the mother, father and child by swabbing the insides of their cheeks using Q-tips. The swabs are sent to a certified DNA laboratory for testing. The test will either exclude the potential father or will show a 99+% chance he is the father. A 99+% probability of paternity is considered legally conclusive evidence of fatherhood.
If the paternity of the father is proven by the genetic test, he is requested to sign an “Order of Filiation” which will make him the legal father. If he refuses to sign, a court hearing is scheduled and the results of the genetic test will be shown to the judge.
Once fatherhood is established, a child support order is sought by the FSD.
HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE TO GET A SUPPORT ORDER?
Many factors affect how long the process takes. Two of the biggest are how long it takes to find the absent parent and serve him/her and how cooperative both parties are in providing income and other data needed for a child support order.
WHAT IF THE HUSBAND IS NOT THE BIOLOGICAL FATHER OF THE CHILD; CAN I GET A CHILD SUPPORT ORDER ON THE BIOLOGICAL FATHER?
No, in such circumstances there must be a court order determining the child is not the product of the marriage before a paternity of the biological father can be established. Your husband is the legal father and has an obligation to pay support until a court rules he is not the legal father.
I WANT CUSTODY AND/OR A VISITATION ORDER. WILL FSD HELP ME?
No. The FSD is not allowed to get involved in child custody or visitation disputes. You can file a child custody or visitation motion in a child support case. Forms for filing are available at the Alger County Friend of The Court Office.
WHAT IF THE ABSENT PARENT LIVES OUTSIDE OF MICHIGAN?
Our office can file a case for paternity and/or child support even if the absent parent lives in another state. In some cases, when that party is a former Michigan resident or other factors exist, we may still be able to file a case in our county.
If there are not sufficient ties to the State of Michigan, an action is filed under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA). The papers are prepared in our office, filed with our court and forwarded to the state where the absent parent resides. The final court Order must be obtained in the other state.
Although we process interstate cases right away, we cannot control the time it takes another state to obtain an Order. Our office will monitor the other state’s efforts according to federal regulations (every 90 days) and contact you if additional information is either received or required. It is important that you keep us informed of any changes in your address, phone number, employment, or other circumstances that may affect your case.
HOW IS CHILD SUPPORT COLLECTED?
The Family Support Division does not collect child support. Court orders are given to the Friend of the Court to collect. They have laws that permit them to get wages assigned for purposes of child support. For more information call the Friend of the Court at (906) 387-4636.
I HAVE A DIVORCE OR CHILD CUSTODY CASE PENDING, DOES THE FAMILY SUPPORT DIVISION GET INVOLVED IN THE CHILD SUPPORT ISSUE?
Sometimes yes. If neither party is getting public assistance for the child, the FSD would not get involved unless a party requests it. If public assistance is involved, the FSD may file a “Motion to Intervene” in the case to assure child support is ordered.
THE ABSENT PARENT HAS BEEN SEPARATED FROM ME FOR A LONG TIME AND HAS PROVIDED NO CHILD SUPPORT. CAN I GET BACK SUPPORT?
A court can order “back support” but they are usually reluctant to do so. The reason is that a back order often puts the absent parent in arrears right from the start. Courts prefer to have the child support obligation start without the absent parent being “in the hole”.
Back support is difficult to calculate because it must be based on the income and circumstances as they existed in the past. Therefore, data on past income and other circumstances must be collected to make a recommendation.
Some factors that might cause a court to consider issuing a back support order are:
- Did the absent parent slow the process of getting a support order by non-cooperation? If he/she did, back support is more likely.
- Did the absent parent know of his obligation to pay but didn’t do anything to help the custodial parent with the child? If he/she did know, back support is more likely.
- Did the custodial parent ask for support? If you did, back support is more likely.
- Did the absent parent flee or not keep in contact with the custodial parent while knowing he/she should help with support? If he/she did, back support is more likely.
- Did he/she have a job or income during the time period for which back support is being requested? If he/she did, back support is more likely.