The focus of the Muskegon County Family Court's Establishment Division is to ensure that every child is supported by both of his or her parents.
Our goal is to promote co-parenting, assist family in obtaining financial independence, seek and obtain child support orders, and obtain repayment of Medicaid disbursements.
Any person who is a parent or a guardian of a child is eligible to receive free assistance from the state's child support program regardless of income.
Families who receive public assistance benefits (Food, Medicaid, Cash, or Child Development Care) and the parents do not live together are required to participate in the child
support program in order to continue to receive state benefits. Participation includes providing all information that is requested by any staff member of the child support program,
including Muskegon County Family Court Staff, and appearing for required meetings and hearings.
The Muskegon County Family Court's Establishment Division also establishes paternity for children where
paternity has not previously been established. In the State of Michigan, paternity is established by:
- Child conceived or born during a marriage (the husband is the legal father)
- An Affidavit of Parentage signed and filed with the Michigan Department of Vital Records
- A Court Order
- Determination of Paternity under the laws of another state or country
The Establishment Division will use DNA testing to establish paternity in cases where paternity has not already been established.
While the Muskegon County Family Court's Establishment Division establishes paternity and child support orders, it is the job of the
Friend of the Court to enforce all child support orders in Muskegon County.
How can I start a case?
If you are not receiving public assistance and would like to start a case, you must submit an application for services. You can submit an application online at
www.michigan.gov/MiChildSupport. You can contact the Michigan Office of Child Support at 866-540-0008
if you have questions regarding your application.
If you are receiving public assistance, a case will be automatically started for you. You will receive a letter in mail with further instructions.
What is the next step in my case?
When a case is referred for establishment services to the Muskegon County Family Court, you will contacted by a staff member to discuss how we will proceed with your case.
Each case is different, and may require different actions to move forward. Generally, establishment of a case will include attending meetings at the Family Court, signing court documents,
and in rare cases, appearing in front of a judge. In order to reduce the amount of visits you will need to make at the Family Court, please bring all documents that Family Court staff ask
you to bring. This may include items like your child's birth certificate, a copy of any prior acknowledgment of paternity, documents related to any marriages or divorces that you have
been a party to, a government issued I.D., income information, and information regarding any parenting time arrangements you may have with the other parent.
How is the other parent notified?
Once the case is filed, Family Court staff will attempt to contact the other parent by phone. Additionally, an appointment letter will be sent to the other parent. At the
appointment, a final order may be signed if both you and the other parent agree on the terms of the order. If an agreement cannot be reached, a hearing may be scheduled before a judge.
What if parents do not cooperate?
If the parent who is receiving public benefits for the child(ren) does not help the Family Court in establishing a case, the Family Court will notify the public assistance
benefits worker of the situation. This may result in a reduction or termination of public assistance benefits.
If the other parent to the case does not participate with the Family Court, a order can still be granted and the Friend of the Court will then start to enforce the order.
What about DNA testing?
When paternity has not been determined, DNA testing can be requested by either parent, or by the court. All parties will be notified of the date and time of the appointment
to gather DNA samples. The appointment will be at the Family Court, and DNA samples are taken by swabbing the inside of each person's cheek.
DNA results are usually sent back to the Family Court within two weeks. Copies of the results are mailed to each party. If the results show that the man is not the biological
father, the case will be dismissed. If a party is ordered to appear for DNA testing and does not, the Court may enter an order compelling that party to appear, or an order establishing
paternity by default. There is a cost for DNA testing, but if completed through a child support case, the cost is significantly lower. Only DNA tests performed by Family Court staff or
completed by an approved laboratory will be used to establish paternity. A "home" DNA test cannot be used in court to establish legal paternity.
How is the amount of child support determined?
Child support is determined using the Michigan Child Support formula, which is required by state law. Calculations are based on the net monthly income of both parties and
consider factors such as other children in the home. A child support order may include medical support costs, child care costs and if the parties agree, custody and parenting time provisions.
You can estimate what your child support order maybe at www.michigan.gov/MiChildSupport. Please note that this is an estimate, and your
actual order may be different depending on the information provided to the Family Court. The Family Court is required to complete the calculation in order to ensure accuracy.
What if a husband is not the biological father of a child?
Michigan law states that if a mother is married at the time her child is conceived or born, her husband is the legal father of the child. If the husband is not the
biological father of the child, the parties must file an action with the court to make a determination that the husband is not the legal father. Family Court staff cannot represent any party
in this type of action, and will continue to seek support with the legal father as a party until a court determines otherwise. Please see the Michigan Legal Help website for more information
on the revocation of paternity: https://michiganlegalhelp.org/
Custody and parenting time issues
If you and the other parent do not agree on the issues of custody or parenting time, the Family Court's Establishment Division will note represent you in
resolving the dispute. You will need to seek a private attorney at that time.
Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement
Michigan Department of Human Services
(formally named the Family Independence Agency)
Muskegon County Friend of the Court