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Family Support

 UPDATED: October 30, 2018

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Paternity

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Parenting Time

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Support

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Friend of the Court

Terri Sadler & Kevin Nilson

Family Support Specialists


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The new direct-dial phone numbers to speak with someone in our
Family Support Unit are
(517) 543-4890 or (517) 543-4897



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PATERNITY

What is the Prosecutor's role in establishing paternity in Michigan?

After a referral from the Eaton County office of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services ("DHHS"), the Prosecuting Attorney's office interviews the custodial parent and files a complaint in Circuit Court. The non-custodial parent is served with a copy of the complaint, and notice of a hearing date in Circuit Court. The Prosecuting Attorney's office schedules court appearances and arranges for DNA testing or buccal swabs from the parties. Finally, if paternity is established, the Prosecuting Attorney will prepare the Order for Paternity that is entered in the Circuit Court's Family Division.

Who do I contact at the Eaton County Prosecutor's office?

Our Paternity and Child Support Specialists, please call at (517) 543-4890, or 543-4897.

What is paternity?

Paternity means "fatherhood". The term "establishing paternity" means making the biological father of a child born out of wedlock the legal father as well.

Why is it important to establish paternity?

The parents and the child have the right to have a parent-child relationship. Establishing paternity gives a child born outside of marriage the same legal rights as a child born to married parents. Other reasons include:

  • Identity & Family Ties: It is important to know who we are. Children who know both parents develop a sense of "belonging". Children may also benefit by knowing their family's biological, cultural, and medical history.
  • Money: The law requires both parents to support their children, even if the pregnancy was unplanned. Children supported by just one parent often do not have enough money for their needs. Parents can share the costs needed for the child, even if they do not live togehter.
  • Benefits: The child has the right to its parents' benefits (social security, insurance, pension, inheritance, veterans' benefits, etc.).
  • Medical: The child may need a complete medical history from the families of both parents, including inherited health problems.

How is legal paternity established?

  • Married Parents: If the mother is married when the baby is born or when the mother became pregnant, her husband is automatically considered by law to be the father, unless a court says otherwise. If the mother has been divorced or widowed for less than ten months, her husband at the time of conception is considered by law to be the father.
  • Unmarried Parents: Parents who are not married to each other when the child was conceived or born must do something -- must take action -- to establish paternity. Paternity can be established by (i) both parents signing a voluntary Affidavit of Parentage that is filed with the Michigan Department of Community Health's Office of the State Registrar, or (ii) a judge can declare that a man is the legal father after a hearing or default.
  • Note: A child can have only one legal father. If the mother is married at the time of conception or birth but her husband is not the biological father of the child, a voluntary Affidavit of Parentage is not allowed to make the non-husband the child's legal father unless a court has already determined in a court order that the husband is not the biological father.

How do I start a paternity case?

In many cases, when the custodial parent or a child's legal guardian receives state assistance for the child (e.g., medicaid, food stamps, etc.), the Department of Human Services will send a referral to us to establish paternity and a support order, even if the custodial parent has not requested child support. The support money is used to reimburse the state for the coverage and services it spends on the child.

The custodial parent must fill out and submit the IV-D Child Support Services Application / Referral form (DHHS Form 1201). It can be submitted by mail (Michigan Office of Child Support, Central Functions Unit, PO Box 30744, Lansing, MI 48909). You can also use the DHHS MiChildSupport web site portal to apply for child support.  In some cases, the custodial parent can call the DHHS Office of Child Support at (866) 540-0008 and talk to a Support Specialist. Once your application has been properly filed, your case will then be referred to the Prosecutor's Office's Family Support Division and a case will be opened.

The Eaton County Prosecuting Attorney's Child Support and Paternity Specialists can be reached at (517) 543-4890, or 543-4897.

After your case is opened, you will be mailed an appointment letter. You will likely be asked to bring in some important documents (pay stubs, driver's license, child's birth certificate) on your appointment day. The information will be used to file a lawsuit against the absent parent so it is very important that all requested documents are brought to this initial meeting. A complaint will be prepared and your case will be filed with the court.

What happens with the absent parent?

Once the support order case is filed, our office may schedule an appointment with the absent parent in our office. The court papers will be given to the non-custodial parent and case issues will be explained. A final Order, resolving the case by consent, might be signed at that time. If the absent parent lives far away or out of state, we will send them notice of the case by certified mail. They may then contact us by telephone or mail. At times, it is necessary to arrange for papers to be served by an outside agency if the absent parent does not respond.

Once the papers are served on the absent parent, the absent parent has a little less than a month to respond in writing to the facts alleged in the Complaint. If not, we will ask the Judge to enter a "default order" against the parent to establish paternity and/or child support. Payments will then be collected and obligations enforced by the Friend of the Court (FOC).

How can the father voluntarily acknowledge paternity?

Both parents must sign papers acknowledging paternity. The Affidavit of Parentage must be notarized and filed with the Michigan DHHS Central Registry Division for Vital Records and Health Statistices. Before signing the form in the presence of a notary public, the father must provide pictured identification and his social security number (plus other identification, if necessary).

Can the Affidavit of Parentage be filed by mail?

Yes. The completed Affidavit of Parentage form can be mailed to:

Central Paternity Registry
Division of Vital Records & Health Statistics
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services
PO Box 30691
Lansing, MI 48909
(517) 335-8676

Is there a fee for filing the Affidavit of Parentage?

No. However, certified copies of the Affidavit of Parentage are available from the Central Registry for $34.00 (additional copies are $16.00 each).

What if the father refuses to acknowledge paternity?

The mother (or the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, if the child is receiving public assistance such as Medicaid, WIC, etc.) may bring a paternity suit to have the matter resolved in court. The alleged father is entitled to a hearing in Circuit Court to prove whether he is the father. If the mother fails to cooperate with this process (including the filing of a paternity Complaint in court, attending court hearings, participating in DNA sampling with her child) her public assistance benefits could be affected.

Can a legal father revoke paternity?

Michigan has created a statutory process through the Revocation of Paternity Act (ROPA) for a legal father to challenge his legal paternity. The process depends on how he was established as the legal father.

  • Presumed Father (married to the mother at the time of conception or birth)
  • Acknowledged Father (affirmatively held himself out to be the child's father by executing an acknowledgment of parentage)
  • Genetic Father (determined to be the father through genetic testing)
  • Affiliated Father (determined to be the father through a prior court order)
  • Alleged Father (a man who through his actions could be the father)

The ROPA laws should be carefully reviewed and followed to ensure that time lines and steps in the process are followed. Michigan Legal Help has some useful information, answering a variety of questions in this process.

What if the mother is not sure who her child's father is?

The mother should call a Office of Child Support Specialist, toll-free at (866) 540-0008, who will help her to identify and locate (if necessary) the father free of charge. The mother does not have to be on public assistance to seek help from a OCS Support Specialist.

When is a DNA test necessary? How is a paternity DNA test done?

A DNA test is needed when the alleged father denies or questions paternity. In Eaton County, DNA testing uses a buccal swab, a painless Q-Tip®-like swab that is rubbed inside the mouth to painlessly capture skin cells containing DNA. The samples are taken from the mother, child and alleged father and are tested at a DCC DNA Diagnostic Center. The tests compare many different and complex details of the child's blood with similar details in the mother's and alleged father's blood.

What does paternity blood testing show?

The tests can accurately show that a man is not the father of the child, or a percentage of likelihood that he is the father (e.g., 99.99% probability). If the results show that the alleged father is not the biological father, the paternity case is dismissed. Because of its accuracy, the DNA test result generally settles the issue, so contested paternity trials are rare.

Who pays for the DNA tests?

The court will decide who pays. In many case, the alleged father is ordered to pay when he is proven to be the biological father.

Can the parents do private DNA testing?

Yes. If a private attorney files a paternity case, they may arrange for DNA testing but Michigan law requires that the analysis occur through a certified lab. "At-home" DNA kits, like those that can be purchased at a pharmacy, are not admissible in court.


What happens if the mother or father is not 18?

In Michigan, the mother's or father's age is irrelevant.

How long after the child is born can paternity be established?

Both Michigan and federal laws permit paternity actions to be started anytime before the child reaches the age of 18. But, you should not wait to establish paternity. Your child has the right to expect regular and continued emotional and financial support from both parents. Give your child the best possible chance in life by getting paternity established now!

 

When can the father's name be put on the birth certificate?

If the mother is married, her husband's name will be recorded on the birth certificate. In other circumstances:

  • if the mother has been divorced or widowed for less than ten months, her husband at the time of conception will be named on the birth certificate, or
  • if the mother was not married at the time of conception or birth, the father's name can be placed on the birth certificate if an Affidavit of Parentage has been signed and notarized.

Birth certificates are not automatically changed when an Affidavit of Parentage is filed, unless the change is made at the birth hospital before the birth has been registered. Changes to registered birth records can be requested based upon a properly completed Affidavit of Parentage, but the birth record correction must be requested on an Application to Correct a Certificate of Birth. A birth certificate can be changed to reflect the father listed on this Affidavit if no other man is recorded on the birth certificate as the child's father. Should a conflict exist, a court determination of paternity may become necessary.

If the parents decide to voluntarily acknowledge paternity, what other steps must be taken?

Beside filing the notarized Affidavit of Parentage with the Michigan DHS Central Paternity Registry Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics, the parents should try to agree on issues of child support, parenting time ("visitation") and custody. If the parents cannot agree, then they must get a court order.

In Eaton County, child custody and visitation issues are decided before the paternity order is entered. Other counties may handle the timing of custody and visitation orders differently. Check with your county's Prosecuting Attorney!

What web sites have Michigan paternity-related information?



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CHILD SUPPORT

What is a "support order"?

A support order means any order entered by the Circuit Court which requires the payment of money for child support, spousal support (alimony), medical, dental and other health care expenses, child care expenses, and educational expenses.

What is in a support order?

The final court Order will include a child support obligation, to be paid by income withholding for an employed parent (usually expressed in "$____/month"), a child care contribution, each parent's responsibility for medical insurance or uninsured medical expenses, each parent's responsibility to report certain changes in circumstances or coverage to the Friend of the Court, reimbursement for pregnancy and/or childbirth expenses and, if the parties agree, a provision for parenting time or custody.

How do I get a court order for child support?

A petition requesting an Order of Support must be filed in the Circuit Court. If both parties (and the Judge) agree on the amount, an order can be quickly entered. If the parties cannot agree, you can consult with a private lawyer, or apply online under DHHS IV-D services. You do not have to be on public assistance to seek help. DHHS will refer the support case to the Prosecuting Attorney, who can file an action in Circuit Court under the Family Support Act.

Michigan Office of Child Support
Central Functions Unit
PO Box 30744
Lansing, MI 48909
(866) 540-0008 (toll free)
(866) 661-0005 (toll free)

Once the support order has been entered, if the parents get back together and decide to end the family support order, they must contact their private lawyer or the Friend of the Court to stop the support order. It is not sufficient to just notify a DHS case worker.

How is child support determined?

Child support is set by a formula in the Michigan Child Support Guidelines. (You may want to download the Michigan Child Support Guidelines Manual.) This formula considers both parents' income, the number of children and their custodial arrangements, other child support payments, etc. (But every-day financial responsibilities like rent/mortgages, utilities, credit card debts, etc. are not factored in.) The baby's medical costs may also be included in the child support order. The DHHS MiChildSupport web site has a free Child Support Calculator to help you estimate what whille be ordered.

Will the Prosecutor help me collect child support?

No. The Friend of the Court is responsible for enforcing payment orders and collecting delinquencies (although you may also hire a private attorney to file an enforcement action). Child support is generally collected through income-witholding from the parent's paycheck. If the person is self- or un-employed, payment must be made personally.

What if the parent responsible for paying lives outside Michigan?

We 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. We will monitor the other state's efforts on a regular basis and contact you if additional information is required.

The parent responsible for paying support has stopped paying. What can be done?

The Friend of the Court is responsible for enforcing payment orders and collecting delinquencies (although you may also hire a private attorney to file an enforcement action). There are several options: income withholding orders, show cause hearings (civil contempt hearings held with the Judge who issued the support order), tax refund intercepts, and liens on the payor's property are the most common methods used.

NOTE: Visitation and support orders are separate orders of the Court, with separate enforcement procedures. If you are not being paid the support monies to which you believe you are entitled, you may not withhold parenting time ("visitation") from the delinquent parent.

How can a non-paying parent be found?

The Office of Child Support, the Prosecuting Attorney's office child support specialist, and the Friend of the Court have resources to locate people. But any information that the costodial parent has is accepted. Some helpful information that you can provide us is found on this DHHS web page.

The parent responsible for paying support has moved to another state. What do I do?

The parent responsible for paying child support must continue to pay support through the Friend of the Court, even if he or she leaves the State of Michigan. If child support payments stop, the parent who is owed the money has several options:

  1. Contact a private lawyer.
  2. Register the Michigan order in the other state where the paying parent lives. (The Friend of the Court or a private lawyer can help do this.) Once registered, it becomes an order of that state's court, and is enforced by that other state. [NOTE: In some states, registering the support order requires registering the custody and visitation orders, which will give the other state's court the power to change the terms of the support, custody or visitation orders, if asked.]
  3. Request the Friend of the Court to arrange for the Michigan court to send an interstate income withholding order, if the name and address of the payer's source of income are known. The FOC can then begin an interstate income withholding action.

What web sites have Michigan child support-related information?

Visit ourDownloads page, too. We have posted some child support and parenting time documents.n?



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CUSTODY &
PARENTING TIME
(Visitation)

Are there different kinds of custody?

Child custody involves two issues. Legal Custody refers to who makes the important decisions in the child's life: where the child lives, where the child goes to school, whether or where the child worships a religion, or consent to the child's medical procedures. Physical Custody refers to where the child lives.

Each type of custody is specifically ordered as either Joint Custody or Sole Custody. With joint physical custody, the child lives with one parent about half the time and with the other parent about half the time. With sole physical custody awarded to one parent, the child loives with that parent all the time but the non-custodial parent may still be awarded parenting time throughout the year (e.g., every other weekend, alternating major holidays, three consecutive weeks in the summer) if it is in the child's best interests. With joint legal custody, both parents share in making decisions on important issues dealing with the child, and must work together. A parent having sole legal custody makes all of the important decisions dealing with the child. Even if one parent is awarded full physical custody, the order might specify joint legal custody depending in the case's circumstances.

What is the Prosecutor's role in issues of custody and parenting time ("visitation")?

The Complaint filed by the Prosecuting Attorney's office to establish paternity or an initial child support order will also attempt to specify legal and physical custody of the child. If the parents agree to specific custody terms (example: parents share legal custody, and mother has full physical custody) the Prosecutor's Office will advocate for that in court. If the parents disagree, the Prosecutor's proposed Order to the judge may refer issues of custody, parenting and child support calculations to the Friend of the Court. At this point, the Prosecutor's Office is no longer involved in the case because the parents either represent themselves or hire attorneys to help them through the FOC investigation process. After an investigation and possibly fact-finding hearings, the FOC will make a recommendation to the Judge that could settle the debated issues. Either party can file a timely objection, which then place the issues in front of the assigned Judge for a final decision.. The Prosecuting Attorney does not appear in court on custody or parenting time ("visitation") issues or disputes in the Friend of the Court process. If you need help because you are being denied parenting time, you may contact the Friend of the Court for assistance once a judgment has been issued by a Circuit Court Judge, or you may seek the assistance of a private attorney who specializes in family law.

If you believe that the other parent has "kidnapped" your child, contact the police. They will conduct an investigation and possibly refer the case to the Prosecuting Attorney to decide whether a crime has occurred requiring prosecution.

How do I get an order for custody?

A petition / lawsuit must be filed in Circuit Court requesting that the court to grant you custody of your child(ren). If both parties agree and sign an agreement (called a Consent Agreement), that will be entered as a custody order (if the Judge approves the terms, too).

As mentioned above, if paternity is established through an Affidavit of Parentage, the legal father does not gain enforcable legal or physical custody of the child. By Michigan statute, the mother keeps full legal and physical custody of her child until a court order changes this status. Often, the Acknowledged Father benefit from the formality of a child support order because his right to legal or physical custody will be addressed, and a court order giving him some level of physical or legal custody is more than he had through his acknoweldgment of paternity form.

How do I change an existing custody order?

A custody order can be changed by filing a petition with the Circuit Court to modify the custody order --- or the parents can sign a written agreement, which the Judge can approve and enter. This process takes place at the Friend of the Court's office, not with the Prosecuting Attorney's office. Usually, an existing custody order will not be changed unless there is a "material change in circumstances" since the custody order was entered.

We can't agree on custody issues. Can the Court help us reach an agreement?

The Friend of the Court will provide domestic relations "mediation" to help resolve disagreements over the terms of custody. Mediation is a voluntary process where a neutral third party assists in settling disputes.

If the parties cannot agree on the terms of custody --- or if mediation does not resolve disputes --- the FOC will conduct an investigation and file a written report and recommendation with the Circuit Court based on factors listed in the Michigan Child Custody Act. The parents will get copies of the report and recommendation. A court hearing will follow before the Judge decides what to do about custody.

Do I need an attorney to get a custody order?

You do not have to have an attorney in order to file for a custody order, but it is a good idea because there are many complicated legal issues involved. Neither the Prosecuting Attorney nor the Friend of the Court can act as your legal counsel, or file a custody petition for you.

How do I get an order for parenting time ("visitation")?

File a petition requesting that the court grant you visitation time with your child(ren). If both parties (and the Judge) agree and sign an agreement, that will be entered as a visitation order. A visitation order can be changed by filing a petition to modify the order --- or the parents can sign a written agreement, which the Judge can approve and enter. The Friend of the Court will provide domestic relations "mediation" to help resolve disagreements over the terms of parenting time.

If the parties cannot agree on the terms of parenting time --- or if mediation does not resolve disputes --- the Friend of the Court will conduct an investigation and file a written report and recommendation with the Circuit Court, based on factors listed in the Michigan Child Custody Act. The parents will get copies of the report and recommendation. A court hearing will follow before the Judge decides what to do about custody.

The Child Custody Act states that visitation shall be granted in accordance with the "best interests of the children". A child has a right to parenting time with the non-custodial parent unless the Judge rules by clear and convincing evidence that the visitation would endanger the child's physical, mental or emotional health.

I am being denied visitation. What can be done?

First, contact your attorney (if you hired one to assist you getting the custody order). Otherwise, file a written complaint with your county's Friend of the Court, requesting that the FOC take action to enforce the order. Include specific facts, dates, times, etc., and the reasons given for the alleged denial of visitation. If the Friend of the Court has reason to believe that the Parenting Time order has been violated, the office may (1) meet with the parties to try to resolve the disagreements, (2) refer the dispute to a mediator, (3) apply the office's local make-up visitation policy, (4) begin a civil contempt proceeding with the Court by filing a petition for a show cause order, and/or (5) petition the Court to change the existing Parenting Time order.

Does the Prosecuting Attorney or the Friend of the Court have a responsibility to investigate alleged abuse and/or neglect of a child?

Allegations of suspected child abuse or neglect should be reported to the Michigan DHHS at 855-444-3911, a toll-free, 24/7 hotline. Your identity as the person who reported concerns is confidential. The hotline staff will take information from you and the case will be assigned to the appropriate local DHHS office's Children's Protective Services investigation unit. You may also call 911 or your local police agency and provide your concerns and information about the child and family issues. Police officers work together with CPS investigators on issues of child abuse, and involvement of police does not guarantee that criminal charges will be requested or issued. 

If the DHHS investigation determines that abuse or neglect has occurred, the Prosecuting Attorney may be asked to assist DHHS in filing a civil neglect petition in the Family Division of Circuit Court. The Friend of the Court must conduct an investigation when a party files a visitation or custody petition; allegations of abuse or neglect should be communicated to the Friend of the Court during this investigation.

Are there other web sites with parenting time information?



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FRIEND OF THE COURT

What is the Friend of the Court?

The Eaton County Friend of the Court is a division of the Circuit Court. The Friend of the Court is not a division of the Prosecuting Attorney's office. The Friend of the Court Act (1982 PA 294) makes the office responsible for:

  • investigating, reporting and making recommendations to the Circuit Court on custody, parenting time ("visitation") and the amount of child support
  • providing mediation sessions to resolve child custody and parenting time disagreements
  • collecting, recording and sending out all support payments ordered by the Court
  • initiating enforcement of all custody, support and parenting time ("visitation") orders entered by the Court

Where do I contact the Eaton County Friend of the Court?

Eaton County Courthouse, 2nd Floor
1045 Independence Blvd.
Charlotte, MI 48813
(517) 543-6850

What web sites have Friend of the Court-related information?

 
Friend of the Court web pages in nearby counties:
 


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