How Does Child Support Work in a Shared Custody Arrangement in Michigan?

By Heather Frances J.D.

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The Michigan divorce court will divide child custody between you and your spouse and order a child support arrangement based in part on the child custody schedule. If you and your spouse can agree on a custody split, the court can approve your agreement. Child support is also based on your income, so when your income changes dramatically or your custody schedule changes, your support amount may need adjustment.

Shared Custody

Generally, shared -- or joint -- custody means parents share parenting time on a set schedule, though time does not have to be exactly equal. Parents can also have just joint legal custody, which is the right to make important decisions about the child such as education, medical care and religious teaching. Michigan’s child support guidelines consider the amount of time each parent has with the child, measured in the number of overnights the child spends with each parent.

Child Support

In Michigan, each parent has an obligation to support his child. Child support payments are for the general care and needs of your child, and they often include expenses for child care or medical care. The court determines how much child support you will pay based on your income as well as the number of overnights your child spends with you. For example, if you and your ex-spouse make the same income and share the same number of overnights, neither of you will pay child support.

Net Income

Michigan uses your net income in its child support calculations. Net income is the amount left after you subtract taxes. Net income includes wages, retirement plans, business profits and many other types of income. Michigan law calculates your base support level using both parents’ net income, less certain deductions like an allowance for support for your other children. Then, the number of overnights your child spends with you determines what percentage of your base support level you will pay, plus adjustments for medical insurance and child care.


Child support levels are subject to review every three years or when there has been a substantial change in circumstances. Substantial changes in circumstances can include changes in income, additional children or changes in the custody arrangement. If you’ve had a substantial change in your circumstances, you can file a motion to modify child support with the appropriate court, usually the court that issued your last child support order. Alternatively, you can ask for modification help from your local Friend of the Court, the office that advises the court on family law matters.