When a parent has minor children and an open case exists in the county family court where the child resides, one of the parents usually has a child support obligation. This is especially true where the custodial parent is receiving state assistance in the form of a food subsidy or state-provided health insurance.
If the child support payor falls behind on their support obligation, bad things happen. First, the family court usually gets involved through the county Friend of the Court to deploy enforcement measures such as a show cause hearing or a possible brief incarceration.
In other cases, the delinquent child support payor gets on the radar of either: a) the county prosecutor’s child support unit; or b) the Michigan Attorney General. A delinquent child support payor technically commits a felony when payments are not made on time. Although one day late and one dollar short subjects the payor to criminal liability, prosecutorial discretion results in only the more serious delinquent payors being charged with this crime.
Felony non-support is relatively easy for the prosecutor to establish. A valid case merely requires the prosecutor to demonstrate: a) a valid child support order exists in a case where the court records show the payor was properly given notice of the proceedings; and b) the payor has not paid the full amount of the child support obligation. Thus, this is practically a “strict liability” crime if these two simple elements are met.
Recently, caselaw has carved out a very very narrow defense having to do with the “impossibility” of meeting a support obligation. In such cases, a payor must demonstrate that the family court erred, that the error was brought to the attention of the family court, and that the court nevertheless imposed an obligation that the payor had no reasonable chance to satisfy each month.
When charged with felony child support, it is important to keep in mind that adjustments and credits that the payor may have in the family court cannot be addressed in the criminal matter. You must go to the family court to take care of the details of your obligation, then address the criminal charge in the criminal court.
This can get complicated and our law firm can help. We have experience in defending criminal charges, including felony child support; and we have vast experience in the family courts. Our firm understands the law behind the Michigan Child Support Formula.
If you are charged with felony child support, or if you need to have your child support obligation examined, give us a call to discuss your options. Our law firm offers a free consultation.