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Child Support and Collaborative Divorce

Often people have heard that child support is set by the state approved formula and it is a very simple matter. On the one hand that is true. In the State of Michigan Judges are required to follow the formula unless there is a good reason not to use the formula. All experienced divorce attorneys have software for calculating child support.
The factors that are used are: the income of the parents, the overnights the children spend with each parent, then type of tax filing (e.g. single, married, or head of household), childcare if the children are less than 12 years old, and the cost of the health insurance provided for the benefit of the children. However, to somehow be of the opinion that the formula equates to fairness is foolish at best. There are number reasons why the Collaborative approach of actually looking at the cost of raising children is far superior than blindly following the formula which was drafted by a group of individuals in Lansing.
First, by law the formula has to be revisited every four years. Therefore, every four years there are changes. If the system were perfect, it would not need to be changed. Second, the formula does not take into consideration any of the realities of the cost of children.
There is no difference, in the formula’s eyes, between the cost of an infant with diapers and formula, a six-year-old boy (which is the example I use for a child with usually low expenses), or 18-year-old high school senior daughter with proms, senior trips, senior photos, etc (my example of an expensive child). Also, if this formula were so perfect it would be used nationwide. However, every state has a different formula. So if you lived 125 miles south of Grand Rapids, you would be in Indiana and would have entirely different formula. Finally, the formula does not clearly define what the support covers. It clearly covers food and utilities for the parent who receives the support child, but it is not clear whether it is intended to cover summer camp, expensive sport’s equipment, and things such as car insurance, and extracurricular school activities.

In the Collaborative process we are able to discuss the true cost of raising a child, how that can be fairly allocated, and are thereby allowing each parent some predictability as to future issues. In addition, the whole Collaborative process which allows people to discuss issues, even tricky issues, promotes a better approach to co-parenting in general and child support in particular.

By Randall L. Velzen
Velzen, Johnsen & Wikander P.C.