Michigan Family Law Overview: Divorce, Custody and Child Support


Family law plays an important role in people’s lives when it comes to divorce, child custody, and child support issues. In the state of Michigan, like everywhere else, family law has its own peculiarities and nuances. In this article, we will look at the key aspects of family law in Michigan and what you should know if you are facing these situations.

Divorce in Michigan: procedure and property division

The Michigan divorce process begins with filing a lawsuit in court. The state of Michigan is a “mixed” state in terms of divorce, where the court can take into account both fault and no-fault in the breakdown of the marriage when making decisions about property and child division. If the divorce is agreed to, the court can approve the division of property and settled custody issues.

What is the difference between judicial divorce (contested divorce) and consensual divorce?

When both husband and wife voluntarily agree on all aspects of the divorce, including division of joint property, child residence and visitation, child support and ex-spousal support, or are able to sign a separation agreement, their divorce is considered a consensual divorce. On the other hand, when spouses are unable to agree among themselves on all aspects of the divorce and separation, and require the court to make appropriate decisions on the above aspects of the divorce, they are forced to deal with a judicial divorce. On the practical side, a judicial divorce requires much more work, usually takes longer, and generally costs more.

Child custody: factors and decisions

When deciding how to allocate child custody, the court will look at the “best interest of the child.” Parents may agree on shared custody or unilateral custody, considering factors such as the desire and ability of each parent, stability, and the environment provided by each parent.

Legal custody means the right to make decisions, not the right to spend time with the child. The parent with sole legal custody has the right to make most of the decisions about the child’s upbringing if both parents cannot agree on the decision. If parents have agreed to joint legal custody, they have essentially agreed to set aside their personal differences in order to effectively raise their children. Each parent in this case has equal rights to make decisions regarding the child. Whether your spouse has sole legal custody, or you both do, you still have the ability to see your child as your schedule allows. Visitation with the child is usually not contingent on legal custody rights.

Child support: calculation and modification

Alimony (alimonies) are payments that one spouse may be obligated to pay to the other after a divorce. In Michigan, the court considers the financial circumstances of both parties when determining the need for and amount of alimony. Alimony can be temporary or permanent, and in some cases can be reviewed by the court when circumstances change.

The State of Michigan offers a formula for calculating the amount of child support to be paid by a parent as outlined in Family Code section 240(1-b). This is a rather complex piece of law that must be read and interpreted carefully to accurately calculate the amount of child support. Generally, after the allowed deductions from a parent’s total earnings, a certain percentage is applied to the balance of earnings to calculate basic child support. The percentage depends on the number of dependent children under age 21:

  • 17% for one child,
  • 25% for two children,
  • 29% for three children,
  • 31% for four children, and
  • 35% for five or more children;

It is necessary to carefully and accurately interpret the statute to accurately calculate child support, as there are many factors and conditions spelled out in the law that affect these calculations.

Family law in Michigan requires careful study and understanding, especially in the case of divorce, child custody and child support issues. Consulting with an experienced family law attorney can help you understand your rights and responsibilities under Michigan law. It is important to remember that each situation is unique, and it is recommended that you obtain individualized counseling to make the best decisions for you and your loved ones.