Michigan Child Support Garnishment Limits, Exemptions and Protections

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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Even though a parent may owe child support, not all of his or her earnings are subject to wage garnishment, and certain limits will apply under Michigan garnishment law. Michigan laws allow for the support of children while maintaining the core means by which the supporting parent is able to support him or herself as well. There are two major ways in which limits are set on child support collections: by setting limits on the percentage taken from a parent’s earnings and by setting limits on how “earnings” are defined. If a parent is subject to multiple garnishment orders, further limits are set by allocating which order is satisfied first and giving certain types of orders priority over others.

Garnishment Limits and Exemptions

Michigan limits garnishment for support to 50% of disposable earnings. Disposable earnings means wages, salary, commissions, and other earnings, and rent or other periodic income that are or become payable during the garnishment period, less deductions required by law. These limits do not apply to income that does not fit the definition of earnings. The term “earnings” is defined in the U.S. Code, Title 15, Section 1672, as compensation paid or payable for personal services, whether denominated as wages, salary, commission, bonus, or otherwise, and includes periodic payments pursuant to a pension or retirement program. So earnings do not include every penny you might get from an employer—it excludes, for example, gifts and some holiday bonuses.

Allocation and Priority

If there are multiple orders (as a result of multiple divorces or children from different mothers, for example), current support is withheld first. If current support does not exhaust the available disposable earnings, arrearages (or unpaid past support obligations) are paid next. Any remainder will go to health premiums.

A support order has priority over any state-issued withholding order and Chapter 13 withholding orders from bankruptcy courts. Pre-existing IRS levies have priority over later-served support orders. So if your ex-spouse owes the IRS money and, later, owes for child support, your child(ren) will receive their support after the IRS gets its due.

Protection from Discrimination

It is against the law for an employer to discriminate against an employee because a support order has been issued. Similarly, an employer may not use the suspension of a driver’s license, occupational license, or recreational license as grounds to discipline, discharge, or refuse to hire an employee unless the license is legally required for part of the employee’s job.

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