Many people think they should try to handle a child support hearing on their own. You might think “it’s easy right?” “They just look at both parent’s incomes, and come up with a number, right?”. It isn’t that simple. There are many things taken into account when child support is calculated and you may be blind-sided if you don’t have the information, or know the right questions to ask.
THE OAKLAND COUNTY FRIEND OF THE COURT REFEREE HEARING
In Oakland County in particular, the Friend of the Court has a seemingly easy path to resolving child support issues without seeing the Judge. When parties attend these child support hearings without an attorney, they are called ‘in pro per’ or ‘self-represented litigant’ hearings and they are designed so everything is handled in a formal hearing before your assigned referee. The process is pretty similar whether your case is in Oakland County, Macomb County or Livingston County. Easy, right? Not so fast! The ‘record’ you make at these hearings may make it impossible for you to present better, more complete information to the Judge if you disagree with the referee’s recommendation.
NOW FOR THE INFORMATION YOU NEED
You probably know what YOU earn (as income), and what your benefits (health insurance) are. If you are self-employed, maybe you can explain that to the referee. But, maybe the referee (or Judge) will ask you questions you can’t answer. Or maybe, you give an answer you later regret. And, even if you know all the answers to questions about your income, what do you really know about the other parent’s income? Do they have bonuses? Does their employer provide a car? What are their benefits? If they are self-employed, and you don’t have their documents, how can you know anything at all about what they make!? If they are not working, should they be? Is there childcare? Is there a dispute about the number of overnights your children are with you? What if the other parent owns an auto repair shop in Farmington Hills, or runs a daycare center in Royal Oak, or rents houses in Clarkston? How do you get the information you need to try your case? What if the other party is a roofer in Novi, but you think they earn money doing ‘side work’? These are all pretty common scenarios we see when our family law attorneys handle child support hearings in the Metro Detroit area.
HOW AN EXPERIENCED CHILD SUPPORT ATTORNEY CAN BENEFIT YOU
A lawyer with extensive experience handling child support cases can be a huge benefit to your case. That might begin by getting the other parent’s employment documents, tax returns, statements made by the other parent to creditors about their income, and bank statements. An attorney knows the right questions to ask of someone who is self-employed who says they make nothing, but drives a new Cadillac! If the other parent isn’t working and you think maybe they should be, an attorney knows the questions to ask so that the referee or judge can ‘impute’ income to them- that is, base child support on the income they should be earning! Some Oakland County referees and judges require the testimony of expert witnesses before they impute income for the purpose of calculating child support.
These hearings can be very stressful. Even if you think you are prepared, and you think you can ask the right questions, there is no guarantee you can get that information properly into ‘evidence’. We have experience in dealing with just about any kind of child support case you can imagine! For many years, our firm has represented a whole array of people including doctors, construction workers, nurses, government employees, restaurant servers and stay-at-home mothers and fathers.
Call our family law team 24/7 at (248) 479-6200.