Michigan Criminal Law: Felony Failure to Pay Child Support
Allegations involving acts that are related to children are prevalent in the criminal justice system. Child-support payments are often a sharply contested issue during a custody battle, but they also can be the basis of a possible felony charge. While this is the usually an option of last resort, missing child-support payments may result in felony criminal charges brought by either the Michigan Attorney General or local prosecutor’s office. However, some people, due a variety of factors, may never be charged for missed payments. MCL 750.161a.
Possible penalties, if convicted, start with a maximum of “up to four years in prison” as well as a fine “of not more than $2,000.00, or both;” MCL 750.165 (1). However, this amount may increase substantially if a person has prior felony convictions or other factors. Generally speaking, while it is a felony and it is punishable by prison, the guideline scores usually favor sentencing a person to county time, probation, or other sanctions if convicted. However, it varies from case to case.
As the Model Jury Instruction explains, in order to prove this charge beyond a reasonable doubt, a prosecutor must show:
(1) The defendant is charged with the crime of failing to pay support for [his / her] [former spouse / current spouse / child(ren)] . Defendant pleads not guilty to this charge. To establish this charge, the prosecution must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
(2) First, that there is a court order that requires the defendant to pay support for [his / her] [former spouse / current spouse / child(ren)] [insert name(s) of spouse or child(ren)] .
(3) Second, that the defendant [appeared in / was personally served with notice of] the action in which the support order was issued.
(4) Third, that the defendant failed to pay support in the amount or at the time stated in the order.
Crim. JI. 34.4.
There are a couple of interesting notes about this particular charge. First, spouses are explicitly authorized to testify against each-other if they wish to do so. MCL 750.166.
Second, this law does give individuals a significant incentive if they can pay enough towards what they owe. Pursuant to MCL 750.165 (4), the court has the option to “suspend the sentence of an individual convicted under this section if the individual files with the court a bond in the amount and with the sureties the court requires.”
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For information on Michigan Divorces, click here.
For information on steps to file a divorce in Michigan, click here.
For information on the differences between Marital property and separate property, click here.
For information on Michigan Personal Protective Orders, or “PPO’s” or “Restraining Orders,” click here.
Anyone charged, of course, is presumed innocent.
The prosecutor would need to prove the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt if the matter proceeded to trial. Simply because a person is charged does not mean that ultimately, they will be convicted.
If you need specific legal advice for your particular circumstances, I encourage you to privately consult with a lawyer. Circumstances may vary significantly. If you need specific legal advice, please privately consult with a lawyer.
If you are charged with an offense and cannot afford to pay for your own defense, the court may appoint you an attorney payable at the public’s expense. You have a right to counsel.