The Effects of COVID-19 on Support Orders
In the wake of COVID-19 and Governor Whitmer's Executive Order 2020-21, millions of people find themselves with limited or no income. What does this mean for their existing child and spousal support orders? Current orders remain in place, and arrears will accrue based on the amount ordered. The Family Support Act requires the Friend of the Court offices to review child support orders not less than every three years, however, the act allows for more frequent reviews upon a substantial change in circumstances.
If the payor and payee can reach agreement for temporary modifications, they should put them in writing and submit revised Uniform Child or Spousal Support Orders to the court for entry. Without an agreement, people should consider filing a motion to modify their support orders. There is a caveat for people who have non-modifiable spousal support orders, as the court is not likely to modify such obligations. If there is any ambiguity in your judgment, you should review with an attorney.
Every county's Friend of the Court website has information on how to file modification motions, and Varnum's family law attorneys are available to answer questions, prepare motions and file them with the court. Though most courts are not able to handle anything beyond emergency filings, they are still processing filings, and your motion will at least preserve your date for retroactive modification so that the revised amount will go into effect retroactively to the date you filed the motion. In addition, the Michigan State Disbursement Unit remains operational and will continue to process payments as received.
Ottawa County is allowing anyone who has a lost a job or income due to COVID-19 to call or email their Friend of the Court investigator and request a joint phone conference to review child support for modification (no motion or appointment needed). They will promptly enter orders on agreements and will refer any disagreements to a phone or video conference with a referee.
The Michigan Supreme Court, State Bar of Michigan, the local courts, the state legislature and attorneys are working together every day to improve access to the courts and address people's concerns about support, filing deadlines and enforcement/modification of orders during this crisis. We will continue to update our clients as new information emerges.
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