If you are extremely far behind with your child support payments, you may be wondering what the statute of limitations is on child support in Michigan. The same may be the case if the other parent owes you child support payments from way back.
There is a simple and straightforward answer, and a much more complicated one. The simple answer is that the statute of limitations is ten years from when the most recent payment was made, not just when it was due. That would have been when the child turned 18 and graduated from high school. So if the child turned 18 and had also graduated from high school in August 2015, the statute of limitations would expire in August 2025. However, if any payments were made after the child turned 18 and was out of high school, even if the payment was involuntary, then the statute of limitations does not apply and a new ten years would start. An involuntary payment would be a tax refund garnishment, for example.
However, the age limit may be extended to a maximum of age 19 ½ if the child is still attending and completing high school. In that case, the 10-year statute of limitations would be extended accordingly until their graduation date, or until the max age of 19/12 years old.
The More Complicated Answer
While the answer above seems clear enough, things can get quite a bit more complicated.
The complications start with the fact that the support payments have to have been in arrears for an extremely long time to make the statute of limitations even an issue. Considering that the “child” is now in his or her late twenties, you may wonder what happened while they were still children.
In addition, the amount that the payments can be in arrears before the arrearage qualifies as a felony in Michigan is only $5,000. So if the total balance on arrearages exceeds $5,000, you can be charged with a felony which is a much more serious crime.
How Do Child Support Payments Go into Arrears in the First Place?
Let’s take a look at how the statute of limitations issue even comes up. After all, it actually starts after a child is no longer a child, and the parent has fallen behind with the child support payments many years before that point.
Considering how strictly the state of Michigan enforces the payment of those child support payments, it’s not easy to accumulate huge arrears. This is especially true when you consider how the child support payments are being enforced throughout. First, the person’s wages are garnished if he or she has a job. That’s really the normal procedure. In addition, both federal and state tax refunds can be confiscated, along with bank accounts, real estate, and more. In all likelihood then, you will only accrue arrearages long term if you are unemployed and not paying or you are self employed and not paying, or not paying the court ordered amount.
Moreover, there are other penalties, such as driver’s licenses and professional licenses being revoked and passports being taken away. Once the arrears reach $5,000, the late child support payments have become a felony, which can result in imprisonment. Of course, time in prison won’t exactly help anyone get caught up with late payment.
The amount of child support to be paid is usually based on the Michigan Child Support Guidelines, and determined by the judge. It takes into account both parents’ income and also the number of overnights they have with the child, as well as the cost of monthly health insurance premiums. It can also include visitation travel expenses, child care, and money for extracurricular activities as part of a child support order and enforcement.
If someone has trouble keeping up with the child support payments, arrears can easily grow into huge sums over the child’s or children’s first 18 years. In the meantime, the challenge becomes to continue with the regular payments while also paying off the arrears.
What Happens If Someone Cannot Afford to Pay All the Child Support Debt?
If someone cannot afford to pay off all the child support debt that has accumulated over the years, there may be some options. While you may be able to do some of these things yourself, it would be wise to talk to a child support lawyer about your options.
The first question, then, is to whom is the money owed? If the child was partially supported through state funds, the debtor may owe money to the state of Michigan. If you owe money only to the state, you can ask the Friends of the Court (FOC) to forgive the debt you owe to the state, either in part or in full. If you owe arrears in more than one county, you must file the request in each county where you owe a debt.
If you owe the debt to a person or the state, you could also go to the circuit court and ask for either forgiveness or a payment plan. If you owe arrears in more than one court case, you have to file the motion in each case separately. You can also ask for a review of the monthly payment amount.
If you owe the money to a person, for example to the other parent, that parent has to agree to the payment plan in order for the judge to grant your motion. There are also conditions attached if you owe debt to the state. These can include participating in parenting or work programs, counseling, and anger management classes.
Can the Statute of Limitations Be Extended?
At the beginning, I wrote that the easy answer to the length of the statute of limitations was 10 years. However, there are potential complications, where that time can be extended. That’s what happens if the 10-year statute of limitations is tolled by the court.
This means the 10-year stopwatch stopped running while the court had ongoing jurisdiction to enforce and started to enforce the child support payments. So while there may technically be a statute of limitations, it can get circumvented if it is tolled by the court’s ongoing jurisdiction. This means that just because it’s been more than 10 years, you’re still not safe from enforcement if you owe arrears.
So if you owe significant arrears, or whether the other parents owes the money to you, whether or not the statute of limitations has expired, you should talk to an experienced child support attorney. We have the experience to help you. Call or email us for a complimentary initial consultation. We will be happy to talk with you.