Paternity & Child Support
What Do We Do?
The Prosecuting Attorney is charged by law with the responsibility to establish Court Orders which provide for:
- The payment of child support by a non-custodial parent to the custodial
- The establishment of paternity and payment of child support of a child born out of wedlock
- The repayment to the state for confinement expenses, paid by Medicaid, related to pregnancy and birth of a child
- The establishment of Child Support Orders across state lines
All referrals come to the Prosecutor's Office from the Office of Child Support (DHHS) in Lansing (upon application for child support and/or as a requirement for receiving DHHS benefits). Since the DHHS is often providing government assistance to families, that agency is interested in assuring that the non-custodial parent is helping to support the family and/or reimbursing the government, as required by Title IV-D of the federal Social Security Act. That proof is in the form of a Uniform Child Support Order, entered by the Circuit Court.
The first step to start a child support case is for the Child Support Investigator to schedule an interview (either by phone or in person) with the custodial parent [the parent who has the child(ren) in their custody and is receiving State of Michigan assistance for that child(ren)]. If agreed, both parents can meet with the Child Support Investigator, which may save time with the process. You must cooperate with this program so that your State assistance does not get reduced. You will only be given three opportunities to participate in the interview. After the third attempt, you may be put in non-cooperation, which will most likely affect the amount of assistance you receive.
A majority of the work on referrals, including investigation, serving and preparing pleadings, scheduling and appearing at hearings, DNA collection, paternity establishment, and case preparation is done in the Prosecutor's office by the Child Support Investigator, under the Prosecuting Attorneys.
Map to the Child Support Investigator's office
Starting Child Support/Paternity Case
If you or your children currently receive public assistance or have received assistance in the past (Medicaid, cash, food stamps/FAP, etc.), you may already have a child support case in the system (IV-D Case Number ). If you have not received a letter from the Office of Child Support within 3 months of your public assistance case opening, call 866-540-0008. As a condition of receiving State assistance, you are required to have a Child Support Order in place if:
- You do not already have an Order
- You are not married to the other parent and you are not living together in the same household
- You are married but separated (not living together) and a divorce (or other domestic relations matter) has not yet been filed
Whether or not you or your children have received public assistance currently or in the past, and if you need to open a child support case, or your previous case is closed, you can apply for child support and/or paternity services. You may apply online with MiChildSupport, or you may print, complete and submit a DHS-1201 form (PDF). You may mail it to the Office of Child Support or simply mail or deliver it to the Child Support Investigator's office.
Child Support Payments & Cash Assistance
If you start a case with the child support program and you're currently receiving cash assistance, you may be required to assign a portion of your child support to the State as reimbursement for cash assistance.
Report any changes that may affect your child support case. For example:
- You or the other parent has a change of address.
- You or the other parent has a new phone number or new job.
- The number of children living with you changes.
- You have new information that may help locate the other parent.
- You are involved in other court actions, such as a divorce that involved child support payments.
Further information, including your rights as a participant, is available in the Understanding Child Support guide (PDF).
Why It's Important to Establish Paternity
Establishing a legal father is very important for a child who is born to unmarried parents. It gives the child the same rights and benefits as those of a child whose parents are married.
Rights & Benefits
It's good for children to know both of their parents. This gives the child a sense of identity.
- Family Ties
Every child has the right to a relationship with both parents. The child may come to know both sides of the family. This can give the child a sense of belonging.
- Financial Support
The law requires both parents to support their children. Parents can share the cost of raising their child, even if they don't live together. Children are more likely to have their needs met when both parents give financial support.
Benefits are very important if a parent dies or becomes disabled. A child has a right to benefits from both parents. These can include:
- Health and life insurance
- Social Security
- Inheritance rights
- Veterans' benefits
- Medical information
Knowing the medical histories of both biological parents can be important if the family has any health problems.
How Paternity Is Established
If parents are married to each other when a child is born or when the mother became pregnant or within 10 months of the parents' final divorce, the mother's husband is the child's legal father.
Parents who are not married to each other must do something to establish paternity. There are two main ways parents can establish paternity when they are not married:
- Unmarried parents can establish paternity voluntarily. This means they agree to name the father of the child by signing an Affidavit of Parentage form (PDF)
- Unmarried parents can ask the local family court to help establish paternity. This usually involves DNA paternity testing (PDF) (also referred to as genetic testing)
- As a requirement of recipients of State of Michigan assistance, once a Child Support case is started through the Prosecutor's office, paternity will be established using either of the above methods, followed by a Court Order (Judgment of Filiation). If DNA results are used, one or both of the parents may be required to testify at a hearing (regarding paternity) and/or the father can sign in agreement on the Judgment of Filiation
It's important to note that the father's name can go on the birth certificate only if paternity has been established. A separate form may be required, depending on how it is established.
Four Places to Establish Paternity
You can get the Affidavit form needed to establish paternity:
- In the hospital at birth, the father's name may be added to the birth record free of charge up until the time the hospital files the birth certificate. Note: Paternity can still be established at a later date for no charge, but a fee is required to add the father's name to the birth certificate (PDF).
- At your local Michigan Department of Health and Human Services office.
- At the Prosecutor's office, Child Support Division. The Child Support Investigator can notarize signatures and mail it in for you.
- Online (by printing it) - complete the Affidavit of Parentage form (PDF).
Both parents must have valid photo identification, and the completed Affidavit form must be signed in front of a qualified witness or notary.
Processing a Case
After the Prosecutor's office has received a referral from the Office of Child Support and the Child Support Investigator has contacted you either by phone or in person for an interview, the documents will be prepared for your review and signing. Most of the time the Child Support Investigator will use the State of Michigan eSignature program to email documents to you for e-signing. It is called OneSpan e-sign. Otherwise, documents can be signed via email attachment, in-person signing, fax, and sometimes by U.S. mail (depending on the deadlines).
Filing the Case
The documents (including the Complaint) get filed with the Circuit Court. The Defendant (often considered the non-custodial parent) is served with a copy of the Complaint. Information is then gathered in an effort to prepare proposed Orders. Depending on the Defendant's actions, DNA may be ordered and collected, an Affidavit of Parentage (PDF) may be signed by the parties, objections may be filed, etc. Consent Orders may be signed by the parties in an effort to resolve the case (with or without a hearing). No hearing is required for child support cases; paternity cases may be required to be heard in front of the judge, if testimony is necessary, along with DNA results. If DNA results are 0% Probability of Paternity, a Motion to Dismiss the case will be made to the Court and the case will be closed. Another alleged father will then be required to be named and the application process with the Office of Child Support starts all over.
Custody & Parenting Time
In Alpena County, issues of child custody and parenting time are not handled through the Prosecutor's Office. The Child Support Investigator can make a custody suggestion, the parties can agree on a custody arrangement or custody can be reserved. If reserved, the parties would then need to work out any custody disputes on their own. If there is a signed Affidavit of Parentage, the "... mother has initial custody..." language can be used in the Orders. Custody and parenting time issues can be addressed through Community Mediation Services, the Friend of the Court office, Michigan Legal Help, or through attorneys. Other counties may handle these matters differently.
If the parties have agreed on parenting time, that information needs to be provided to the Child Support Investigator and every effort will be made to incorporate it into the Orders. The Alpena County Circuit Court provides Standard Parenting Time Guidelines (PDF) (if the parties cannot agree or do not currently have a schedule).
Legal Custody vs. Physical Custody
Legal custody refers to major life decisions who has the legal right to make important decisions for a child including decisions affecting the child's health, education, and welfare. Examples of legal custody include where to send the child to school or which therapist or doctor to select for the child. Legal custody can be granted to one parent (known as "sole legal custody") or jointly to both parents (known as "joint legal custody"). If parents share joint legal custody, the parents must jointly make important decisions affecting their child's welfare. Regardless of who has legal custody, both parents may decide all routine matters concerning the child while the child is with that parent.
Physical custody refers to the child's living arrangements and who has the legal right to have the child reside with them. (This is not to be confused with parenting time, which refers to who has the legal right to have specific time with the child to parent the child.) Physical custody can be granted to one parent (known as "sole physical custody") or jointly to both parents (known as "joint physical custody"). Joint physical custody does not necessarily mean that the parties will have equal time with the child. The parties may agree or the Court may later Order a parenting time plan is in the child's "best interests."
Child Support Amount & Calculation
The Child Support Investigator is required to utilize the Michigan Child Support Formula to calculate child support unless there is an acceptable reason not to use it (deviation). This formula considers both parents' income (or wages are imputed/estimated if a party is underemployed), the number of other children each party supports, parenting time arrangements, etc. A child's health care costs, educational expenses, and childcare expenses may also be included in the Child Support Order. Your childcare provider can fill out the expense form (PDF) for you to submit to the Child Support Investigator. A credit will be given for either party providing private health care. Calculate support
If parties prove / confirm that voluntary child support has been paid to the custodial party, credit may be given in the Orders in the form of adjusting the effective or starting date of the payments in the Orders.
Completing a Case
Paternity Already Established
A Judgment of Support and Uniform Child Support Order are entered by the Judge (with or without a hearing). If parties consent/sign the Orders, then no hearing is required. If a hearing is scheduled, but parties sign Consent Orders prior to that hearing, the hearing can be removed from the docket. From time to time, the Court may schedule a hearing on a case, depending on the status. The Orders commonly contain provisions for childcare, health care, custody (agreed by the parties or reserved), payment of fees and child support.
Paternity Not Yet Established
A Judgment of Filiation and/or Uniform Child Support Order are entered by the Judge (with testimony at a hearing, unless the father signs the Judgment of Filiation and/or Affidavit of Parentage, with or without DNA results, prior to the entry of the Orders). If the father does not consent / sign, testimony regarding DNA results / paternity (by one or both of the parents) will be necessary at a hearing.
Friend of the Court
The Prosecutor's office establishes Orders but does not enforce them. Once the Orders are established, the file is transferred to the Friend of the Court for enforcement and collection. All future contact, payments and/or modifications to those Orders will be through their office.