Plaintiff and Defendant Morris entered a consent judgment of divorce. The consent judgment provided for equal parenting time. Under the Michigan Child Support Formula (MCSF), Plaintiff was required to pay Defendant $1,051 in monthly child support. In lieu of monthly payments, the parties agreed that Plaintiff would transfer $100,000 from one of her retirement accounts to Defendant. Although the documents indicated that Plaintiff had already transferred $100,000 to Defendant, that transfer had not been completed.
Failed Parenting Time Arrangement
And it soon became clear that the equal parenting-time arrangement would not go as planned. The children were living with their mother fulltime and spent maybe one overnight per month with their father. Plaintiff waited to seek any relief to see if the children would eventually visit with their father and if Defendant would insist on enforcing the parenting time schedule set forth in the Judgment. Neither occurred.
Motion for Relief from Judgment & Child Support
Seven months after entering the consent judgment of divorce, Plaintiff filed a motion for relief from judgment and child support. Plaintiff characterized the failed parenting-time arrangement as newly discovered evidence that negated her child support obligation. Had it been known at the time of entry of the Judgment of Divorce that Defendant would effectively have no parenting time, Plaintiff would not only have not agreed to a lump sum transfer of retirement funds in lieu of child support but would have required Defendant to pay child support to her. In addition to setting aside the $100,000 transfer provisions in the divorce judgment, Plaintiff requested that the court recalculate the child support award based on her fulltime custody of the children.
Defendant challenged Plaintiff’s request for relief but did not claim that he had exercised his parenting time and did not seek to enforce the parenting-time provision in the divorce judgment. Rather, Defendant contended that the $100,000 transfer was part of the property settlement. He asserted that the court was bound by this division reached through fair negotiation.
The circuit court conducted a de novo hearing. The court agreed that consent divorce judgments are contractual in nature and must be enforced as negotiated. In this situation, it is clear from the language of the judgment that that $100,000 was for child support. Yet, Defendant had not exercised his parenting time with the children to warrant the award of any child support amount. Accordingly, the court found the motion for relief from judgment supported. The circuit court subsequently entered an order providing that Plaintiff was not required to transfer $100,000 to Defendant and referring the matter to the FOC for recalculation of the parties’ child support obligations retroactive to the date Plaintiff filed her motion.
It is important to remember that decrees regarding child support, child custody, visitation and spousal support (alimony) are not always final. Circumstances change all the time, which is why it is possible to seek a post-decree modification. Our family law attorneys at Aldrich Legal Services have helped countless family law clients across southeast Michigan, including in Wayne, Washtenaw and Oakland counties, receive modifications that more fairly meet their needs.
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