Kristen has been the Child Support Specialist in the Prosecuting Attorney's Office since 2010. Her main responsibilities are establishing child support and paternity. That includes interviewing custodial and non-custodial parents, drafting child support orders, performing DNA tests and scheduling court hearings. She also works closely with the Charlevoix County Friend of the Court.
How is a Child Support Case Initiated Through the Prosecuting Attorney's Office?
The Prosecuting Attorney's Office Child Support Specialist only handles cases that are referred by the Michigan Office of Child Support (OCS). Referrals are generated in two ways:
1. If you apply for public assistance through the Michigan Department of Health and 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 Prosecuting Attorney's Office.
2. You can ask for a referral to the Prosecuting Attorney's Office by contacting OCS. You do not have to be on public assistance to request child support from an absent parent. OCS can be contacted at 1-866-540-0008. Once the PA Office receives the referral we will schedule an initial interview with the custodial parent or third party custodian.
What happens at an Initial Interview?
During the initial nterview, all information provided on the referral is verified and all necessary court documents are generated for the custodian’s signature. The custodian will be asked to bring all documents requested in the appointment letter such as: birth certificates of your children or affidavits of parentage, if you are married, a copy of the marriage certificate, if you are divorced, a copy of the divorce decree and any modifications of the divorce decree, if you are a third party custodian, proof of legal custody, employed, four most recent pay stubs, and/or verification of day care expense.
If you do not go to your appointment, you may have your DHHS benefits cut or diminished for non-cooperation.
How is child support determined?
Child support is set by a formula in the Michigan Child Support Guidelines. This formula considers both parents’ income, the number of children and their custodial arrangements. A child’s health care costs, educational expenses and child care expenses may also be included in the child support order.
How is Paternity Established?
There are three primary methods in Michigan establishing paternity:
1. Both parties are married at the time of conception and/or birth of the child;
2. Both parties voluntarily execute an affidavit of parentage by completing the form and signing it in front of a notary public or a qualified witness. A qualified witness is an employee of one of the following: a hospital, publicly funded or licensed health clinic, pediatric office, Friend of the Court, Prosecuting Attorney's Office, Court, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, county health agency, county records department, Head Start program, local social services provider, county jail or state prison.
The Prosecuting Attorney's Office Child Support Specialist can assist parties in obtaining and completing the Affidavit of Parentage. The Affidavit of Parentage can be mailed to the Paternity Central Registry for filing with the State at the following Address:
Central Paternity Registry
Vital Records & Health Data Development Section
Michigan Department of Community Health
P.O. Box 30691
Lansing, Michigan 48909
There is no fee for filing the affidavit with the Central Paternity Registry. Once filed, copies of the affidavit can be obtained by either parent, by the child or a guardian or legal representative of a parent or the child. Certified copies of the affidavit are available from the central registry for $34.00 (additional copies are $16.00 each) and can be requested at the time of filing;
3. By Order of the Court when one party files a paternity action against the other party to determine whether the alleged father is or is not the natural father of the subject minor child. The Court Order called an Order of Filiation will address child support, custody and parenting time.
How is the Absent Parent Notified?
The case 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?
If you are receiving public assistance, you must cooperate with seeking a support order or your benefits could be reduced or eliminated. The taxpayers are supporting your child(ren) and you have an obligation to assist in seeking support from the absent parent. 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.
What if the Absent Parent is Not Working or Does Not Have 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.
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.
If I Want a Custody or Parenting Time Order, Can the Prosecuting Attorney's Office Help Me?
No. The Prosecuting Attorney's Office 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 Friend of the Court office.
What if the Absent Parent Lives Outside of Michigan?
The Prosecuting Attorney's 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 Prosecuting Attorney's Office 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.