The legal authority for the Michigan child support guidelines.

Most people know that child support is determined by guidelines. In this article, we examine the legal authority for the Michigan child support guidelines. When I was a first year law student, a law school professor instilled a legal concept that every law has to have legitimacy and every lawyer should know the legitimacy of the law. The legitimacy of a law can be found by “pointing to the power”.  “Pointing to the power” was my professor’s way of teaching us to understand the legal authority for a law. Every law is legitimized by pointing to the power. So this article will “point to the power” which requires a court to utilize the Michigan child support guidelines in determining child support in Michigan.


The Michigan child support guidelines can be found in the Michigan Child Support Formula Manual (herein “MCSF”). The most recent version was written in 2017. The MCSF is revised every few years for example the prior Michigan child support guidelines was effective in 2008.

The legal authority for child support can be found in the Child Custody Act of 1970 which establishes the inherent rights of minor children to be supported.  Michigan Compiled Laws section 722.25 provides the statutory authority for a parent to pay support in a child custody dispute.

The legal authority for the Michigan child support guidelines can be found in Michigan Compiled laws sections 552.519 and 552.605(2). The statutes provide that a trial court must follow the Michigan Child Support Formula Manual when determining the child support obligation of parents.

Case law provides clarification of the statute. For example, Borowsky v Borowsky, 273 Mich App 666, 673; 733 NW2d 71 (2007), the Michigan Court of Appeals re-enforced the notion that: “A trial court must strictly comply with the requirements of the MCSF in calculating the parents’ support obligations unless it ‘determines from the facts of the case that application of the child support formula would be unjust or inappropriate . . . .’ ”

In Clarke v Clarke, 297 Mich App 172, 179; 823 NW2d 318 (2012), the Michigan Court of Appeals stated: “Just as with a statute, courts must comply with the plain language of the MCSF, and may not read language into the MCSF that is not present.”

While most everyone is aware that child support is required in most custody cases, it is also important to be able to recognize the statutory basis for doing so as we have done here. So if you are ever asked the question:  “What is the legal authority for the Michigan child support guidelines?” you can confidently answer, MCL 552.519 and MCL 552.605(2) and “point to the power”!

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I have been exclusively practicing divorce and family law in Michigan for over two decades.  The attorneys at Findling Law all share the core value of practicing law to help people navigate change in their lives, without compromising principles.  We are compassionatecreative and always prepared. We specialize in high socio-economic, high-profile and high-conflict cases, while also working with clients of all backgrounds. We recognize that the most important aspect of the practice of law is the application of the law to your specific circumstances.That is why we provide more free information on divorce and family law than any other Michigan law firm. We want to help you manage your situation. Allow our exceptional legal team to help you navigate the change in your life, without compromising principles.

By:  Daniel Findling


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