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The Law Blogger is a law-related blog that informs and discusses current matters of legal interest to readers of The Oakland Press and to consumers of legal services in the community. We hope readers will  find it entertaining but also informative. The Law Blogger does not, however, impart legal advice, as only attorneys are licensed to provide legal counsel.
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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Convicting the Child Support Payor for Non-Payment

In June, the Oakland County Bar Association has asked me to present to fellow lawyers on the topic of felony child support cases.   Like any area of the law, what at first appears simple, really a matter of strict liability, takes on complexity once you start looking at the details.

Over the past ten years, prosecutors began addressing the problem of unpaid child support in Michigan, taking cases from the family courts, and charging the errant payors with felonies in the circuit trial courts.  As a result, millions of dollars have been collected that otherwise would not have been paid.  Also, dozens of payors, both Fathers and Mothers, have gone to jail; some to prison.

During this wave of prosecutions, many delinquent payors have challenged the constitutionality of Michigan's felony non support statute on the basis that it essentially creates a "debtor's prison".  The "inability-to-pay" defense, viable at one time, was removed by the legislature with the passage of the most recent version of the statute in November 1999.

The constitutionality of this version of the statute, particularly the removal of the "inability-to-pay" clause, was tested a few years back in the People v Meldman case; a case from Oakland County.  Defendant challenged the family court's findings on the imputation of his income, and challenged the felony child support statute on its face.  Conviction affirmed.

The Law Blogger covered the basic ground on this subject some years ago, in these earlier posts: 02/15/2010 and 12/14/2010.  These posts covered the UM Law's innocence project and their challenge to the felony child support act's constitutionality.

The case we've been waiting for, People v Likine, also from Oakland County, was fully briefed for the Michigan Supreme Court last April [including amicus briefs from both the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan, and a powerful group of Michigan Criminal Law Professors], argued in October, and the High Court's opinion deciding the case is expected any day now.

Likine deals, in astounding depth, with the bed-rock constitutional issue of whether you can be jury tried for a crime involving non-payment, without being able to put on a defense of an inability, or even an impossibility, to pay the court-ordered obligation.  Related to this issue is whether a defendant can collaterally attack a statute, introducing evidence from the family court [on issues of payment history, income levels and availability of funds] into a court of general jurisdiction: i.e. the Oakland County Circuit Court.

One more recent development since that post is last June's SCOTUS decision in Turner v Rogers, holding that a child support payor facing incarceration for non-payment is afforded legal counsel under the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution.  A rare example of SCOTUS reviewing a state court decision with roots in family law jurisprudence.

Great stuff.  Stay tuned and we will be sure to convey how the Michigan Supreme Court views all this.  Hopefully they will issue their Likine decision prior to the OCBA presentation to my colleagues...

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another area to explore is the inability of Friend of the Court to communicate effectively with the FoC in other States. Another State (Calif-state of residency) stating that a man is CURRENT on his support while Michigan shows a growing shortfall. The Ordered amount from FoC did not match the Judgement which was increased and signed in court. This was never communicated to Calif.

I agree with the comment about creating a debtor's prison. The Judge hearing my brothers case didn't care about anything relating to circumstances. Just get the money. Would not allow him to return to Calif., to a new job (good paying, recently obtained), to his home, clothing.. nothing, stay here in Michigan, without a home, vehicle, clothes, tools.. and find a job to pay this debt. IN MICHIGAN??? NOW THAT'S INSANE!

I'm not saying he wasn't at fault, but typically when your FoC agent says everything is GREAT, you certainly wouldn't expect someone to show up early on a sunday and lock you up for 30 days and then send you back to michigan and not allow you to return to your job/home, etc. If he had not been able to pay double his monthly amount, he would have been put back in jail/prison.

May 30, 2012 at 9:02 AM 
Blogger said...

The Custodial Support Foundation was created to assist the more than 37.5 million custodial parents owed child support in America.

As of 2011, child support arrears exceeded $100 Billion Dollars for the 12.5 million custodial parents with child support orders.

In addition to custodial parents not receiving adequate child support, millions of noncustodial parents are child support accounts with the Office of Child Support Enforcement are incorrectly documented.

Child Support Neglect plays the most critical factor in determining a child's success as an adult, and is a major contributing factor to the social ills within our inner cities, rural communities and society as a whole.

To assist parents with child support in America, the Custodial Support Foundation has developed a:
Collection Program - (
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We also provide the Custodial Support Forum, which is a weekly talk show that provides viewers with solutions related to child support problems. Each week a new episode is available on Cablevision's Public Access Networks or online at YouTube or the Custodial Support Foundation's Website at:

Parents can also call the Custodial Support Foundation's 24-Hour Call Center at 855-851-HELP or 855-851-4357.

June 27, 2012 at 12:41 AM 
Blogger said...

The Custodial Support Foundation's Amnesty Program also assists noncustodial parents who owe arrears, and need modifications to their child support orders, because of a change in their circumstances.

Amnesty Program:

Noncustodial Parent Endorsement:

Noncustodial Parent Program Episode:

If you are a noncustodial parent and need assistance in obtaining a modification to your child support order, having your driver's license reinstated, getting your passport reissued and stopping tax levies, call the Custodial Support Foundation.

Our 24-Hour Call Center is standing by for your calls at (855) 851-HELP or (855) 851-4375.

August 24, 2012 at 10:44 PM 
Blogger said...

Custodial Parent Endorses the Services of the Custodial Support Foundation and Bounty Alert for Assisting in Collecting $11,000 of Her Child Support Arrears through Project Child Support.

Click to Like:

See Endorsement:

The noncustodial parent found living in Maryland after leaving New Jersey in an attempt to not pay child support.

The noncustodial parent was arrested during the court appearance to prevent his assets from being seized and liquidated during the hearing to obtain the custodial parents enforcement order through Project Child Support.

The custodial parent was also facing an eviction, which she was able to stop by paying her past due rent.

If you are owed child support and are unable to collect your arrears, call the Custodial Support Foundation at (855) 851-HELP or (855) 851-4357. You can also contact us by e-mail at

November 17, 2012 at 12:28 PM 
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October 8, 2015 at 7:36 AM 

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