Support obligations are then enforced primarily through direct income withholding arranged by the payor’s employer. If the payor is self-employed, then the support payments are made directly through the State of Michigan’s disbursement unit, known as MiSDU. Although often not advisable, some parties make arrangements for direct payments between the support payor and payee; there is no Friend of the Court accounting service when this arrangement is deployed.
The mechanism for income withholding is through an income withholding order [IWO]; an order administratively generated by the local Friend of the Court in accord with the Uniform Support Order. The IWO is transmitted by the Friend of the Court to the human resources department of the payor’s employer and the support obligation is apportioned across the number of checks the payor receives in the employer’s pay cycle.
Sometimes, income withholding does not work due to a payor’s unemployment, frequent job changes, purposely staying out-of-touch with the Friend of the Court following a job change, and a host of other circumstances. When this occurs, the support payee has a variety of enforcement tools available which include:
- contempt of court which could include a jail term;
- tax refund interception;
- wage garnishment;
- lien placement on real or personal property;
- suspension of the payor’s drivers, occupational, recreational, or sporting licenses; and
- initiation of felony criminal charges for failure to pay support.
Once a support payor falls behind and builds-up an arrearage, the first step is to bring the matter to the Court’s attention by contacting your caseworker -support specialist- at the Friend of the Court. This will bring the matter to their attention and will result in the generation of a warning letter to the payor. Following this step, the next step is to go to court on a motion to enforce support; this will bring the matter before the judge. Such motions are useful to the extent that information can be gained about the payor’s current circumstances.
Aggressive enforcement may involve retaining a family law attorney who is well-familiar with the tools available for enforcement and who has experience in securing support payments from an unwilling or uncooperative payor. Our law firm has had cases where the payor sees non-compliance with the family court’s support orders as a challenge or competition. We utilize a coordinated approach to such individuals designed to gather information and secure as much support resources as are available. Most often, it is better to avoid a contempt sentence of jail so that the payor can continue working; most payor’s that are jailed lose their jobs.
Sometimes, however, a clear message needs to be sent and a jail term for contempt must be requested. Many family court judges see this as a last resort.
If you have a support enforcement issue and need the assistance of a family law professional, contact our law firm to schedule a free consultation to explore your options.