State legislation extends reach for child support cases

Mechanism is now in place to collect from parents in other states and countries.

March 4, 2016
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A recent change to Michigan law will make it less difficult for some parents to collect child support.

Matthew DeLange, a partner at MI Family Law Center who specializes in interstate law, said the state’s update to the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, which went into effect Jan. 1, will make it much easier to collect child support from parents who live in other states and even other countries.

He said Michigan was one of the last remaining states to make such a change.

“Previously, if you had a parent living in Italy, for instance, there was no good mechanism in place to collect child support,” DeLange said. “So now, if a parent moves from Michigan to Italy, or vice versa, it allows them to register with our support act and collect child support.”

DeLange said he typically only sees about six or seven cases that involve interstate custody law per year, but Grand Rapids’ stature as one of the nation’s fastest-growing cities could signal an increase in these types of cases in the coming years.

Another major change to Michigan law this year was an amendment that makes it more difficult to enact custodial changes for active duty military parents who have been deployed out-of-state.

Previously, the law covered only parents who served in the military reserve, while active-duty service members might see their custodial rights changed while they were deployed elsewhere.

The update now allows the courts to only make temporary changes to custodial rights, which revert to status quo when the parent returns to the area.

DeLange added that, in his experience, courts in West Michigan have been more lenient in this particular area of military deployment and custodial law, and most of the time have refrained from making permanent changes to custody rights for active duty service members.

However, the amendment makes the ruling much more firm.

“A lot of the courts in this area are already a little bit ahead of the curve on some of these laws, and so I don’t think you’ll see a huge change there, aside from that it makes procedure a bit more clear,” DeLange said.

When it comes to staying up to date with new laws and regulations, DeLange said he references the Michigan Family Law Journal, which publishes monthly and includes which laws currently are pending in legislature as well as significant cases in the past year.

Law firms also use the State Bar of Michigan’s daily eJournal to stay up to date with the latest changes and rulings.

As far as upcoming changes, DeLange said he will be paying close attention in the near future. Typically, legislation is submitted following the governor’s proposal for the state budget — which Gov. Rick Snyder announced last month.

“A lot of times there’s more of a run for traction on things after the budget announcement,” DeLange said. “So you’ll start to see things moving along pretty soon.”

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