Dec 14, 2010

Felony Child Support Cases Get Review by Michigan Supreme Court

Last week, the Michigan Supreme Court granted leave on three cases challenging the constitutionality of the Felony Non-support Act; the statute criminalizing the failure to pay timely child support to the custodial parent.

This blog has covered the felony child support issue relative to the People v Likine case from Oakland County Circuit Court.  That case, along with People v Harris (from the Muskegon Circuit Court) and People v Parks (Ingham County)were granted leave for further appeal. 

A decision from the Supreme Court is expected sometime in 2011. 

In Harris, Justice Robert Young, Jr. dissented from the majority of his colleagues in granting leave on the grounds that the appellant pled guilty in the trial court, cutting a deal on his child support payments to avoid jail.

One of the defenses that will be addressed in all three pending cases is whether a child support payor charged with this felony can raise the issue of his or her “inability to pay” in the criminal court.  Of course that defense is often raised in family court. 

Once you’ve been charged with felony child support, however, the “inability to pay” defense is unavailable per the Michigan Court of Appeals holding in the published case of People v Adams.  In granting leave for further appeal, the High Court expressly directed the parties to address the constitutionality of the Adams holding.

Generally, if you are having difficulty keeping your child support obligation current, you should immediately seek relief in the family court before you build an arrearage. 

An arrearage, if significant, can lead to a felony charge.  Technically, a day late and a dollar short is all that is required by the prosecutor to charge a case.

If you’ve already been charged, then you can still attempt to seek relief from the family court in the form of a reduced ongoing monthly obligation and, with the payee-parent’s consent, a waiver of interest and service fees.  There must be some basis for modification other than you simply ignoring your obligation.

We will keep our readers updated on this strand of cases.

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