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What happens when a parent falls behind in child support?

On Behalf of | Nov 17, 2020 | child support |

For many noncustodial parents, child support orders can feel like a heavy burden. Some may feel like they are working hard, but not getting ahead because every month they have to give money to the custodial parent. Their financial frustrations feed into their lingering resentments against their ex, and it can turn into an ugly situation.

However, in the eyes of the state of Michigan, the need for a child support order doesn’t stem from the relationship between the parents. It stems from the relationship of the parent to the child. Every parent has a responsibility to pay for their children’s care. When a noncustodial parent pays child support, the money is intended to go to the child’s food, clothing, shelter and other needs.


If a noncustodial parent fails to pay child support, it hurts the child, and it is a burden on the custodial parent. They may have to ask the state for help, creating a burden on the taxpayers. This is one reason the state has tools to enforce child support orders.

Michigan has many tools at its disposal when it needs to enforce a child support order. It can place an order to withhold income from the nonpaying parent, in order to collect current and past-due payments. It can also take the money out of the parent’s state and federal tax refunds, or place a lien on the parent’s property.

In some cases, the state can call a nonpaying parent to court for a hearing. If the parent fails to show up, the court can issue a warrant for the parent’s arrest.

Request a modification

These enforcement actions aren’t good for anyone. They aren’t good for the nonpaying parent who is subjected to them, nor are they particularly good for the child, who must see a parent suffer.

A good way to avoid this fate is to request a child support modification as soon as it becomes difficult to make regular payments. A parent who loses a job or suffers another financial setback should speak with a lawyer as soon as possible about modifying their child support order. If they are falling behind in payments, a modification can give them time to catch up. As the old saying goes, when you find you’re stuck in a hole, the first thing to remember is to stop digging.