Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Closing the Gap with Fathers

By Nikki Withrow, Management Analyst, SCAO Friend of the Court Bureau (FOCB)

I don’t know when it happened, but at some point in its 100-year history, the Friend of the Court (FOC) was given an unfortunate nickname: “Friend of the Mother” (or sometimes other, more unsavory versions of this). 

In approximately 90 percent of Michigan’s child support cases, the mother is receiving child support, and the father is paying child support, which means that our system gives the mother the “custodial parent” label and “noncustodial” to the father. In the almost six years since I started working with the child support program, I have heard it said time and again that the FOC is interested in doing what is best for the mother – not what is best for the child, not what is best for the family, and especially not what is best for the father. Granted, the people I have heard this from are either fathers with an FOC case or family members of a father with an FOC case, but it still raises the question: what can the FOC do to make fathers know they matter, too?

Lost in Translation: How to Ensure Effective FOC Communications While Working Remotely

By Steve Capps, Director, SCAO Friend of the Court Bureau

Think back to events or holidays you enjoy.  What do you remember?  Chances are the things you remember are sights – lights and colors – feelings, sounds, or smells. Maybe you remember feeling the warmth of the sun at the ballpark or the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field for those of you in the UP.  You might recall sounds like laughter, songs, and cheers.  You might think of the smell of a feast being prepared or hot dogs on the grill.

Scheduling Friend of the Court Appointments Online

By Suzanne Hollyer, Director, Oakland County Friend of the Court, and President, Friend of the Court Association; and Brittany Dougherty, Director, Saginaw County Friend of the Court

Several counties have implemented a free appointment scheduling system called Setmore to allow a controlled flow of clients into their buildings as friend of the court (FOC) offices navigate serving clients during a global pandemic. The Oakland County Friend of the Court (Oakland FOC) first sought out the Setmore appointment system when investigating how to continue serving its walk-in clients. The Saginaw County Friend of the Court (Saginaw FOC) has further expanded its customer service options by allowing video appointments using this free service.

MiChildSupport & FOCA Technology Team Providing Solutions during the Pandemic

By Sandra Vanderhyde, Muskegon County Friend of the Court & Circuit Court Administrator, and Kim Lubbers, Office of Child Support (OCS), MiChildSupport Product Owner 

What happens when partner agencies collaborate? The customer reaps the benefits.  

The Friend of the Court Association Technology Team (FOCA Tech Team) and the MiChildSupport Team have been meeting quarterly for several years to identify and implement ways to improve the customer experience. With a focus on MiChildSupport, our public-facing website, the teams have worked together to build on existing features and to generate new ideas for engaging child support customers. And then came COVID-19. 

MiChildSupport landing page.

Creative Child Support Enforcement: DNR License Suspensions

By Bill Bartels, Management Analyst, SCAO Friend of the Court Bureau


License suspension has been an available child support enforcement remedy since 1997. (MCL 552.628)  To be eligible, a payer’s arrears must exceed twice the monthly support obligation, and an income withholding order/notice (IWN) must be either nonexistent or ineffective at collecting consistent support. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Legal Corner - November 2020

"The Legal Corner" provides a summary of recent Michigan Supreme Court and Michigan Court of Appeals decisions relevant to the child support program, as well as recently released state memoranda.



Thursday, August 13, 2020

Self Care and Team Care in Isolation

By Shenandoah Chefalo, Faculty, The Center for Trauma Resilient Communities

[Editor’s note: The following article was originally published in the National Child Support Enforcement Association’s May 2020 issue of the Child Support CommuniQue (CSQ) and is reprinted with permission.]

Panic is a real feeling. Anxiety about the unknown is real. Recognizing our actual feelings is a good first step in understanding if we are in survival mode. This “survival brain” or trauma brain as we often refer to it, is a necessary and lifesaving auto response we have to real life threat. However, it can be sent into over-drive and then become our automatic response instead of our life-saving response. 

This “triggering” can have life-altering and sometimes deadly consequences. It’s impossible in a short article to rationally explain all the ways living in survival mode can affect you, but it has a broad range including migraines, rashes, hormonal imbalance, tiredness, digestive problems, tension, trouble focusing, insomnia - to even more severe illness. 

Flint Nonprofit InvolvedDad Works with Friend of the Court to Strengthen Families

By Shon Hart, Founder and Executive Director, InvolvedDad

Although it is sometimes a wearying fight, the moment a father can see, hold, and embrace his child for the very first time is worth every second. And, when the only thing standing in the way of a father and child’s relationship is helping him with his child support payment while he gets on his feet, it’s worth every penny. This is just one way that my organization serves fathers in the Flint area.

High Unemployment Benefit Impact to the Michigan Child Support Caseload During the Pandemic

By Paul Gehm, Management Analyst, SCAO Friend of the Court Bureau

“How can we help? What can we do?” Those were the first questions from many who work in the child support program as COVID-19 began to affect life in Michigan. We knew, at the beginning of all of this, that the impact to families would be great. Many immediately wanted to help families affected by COVID-19 and shutdowns, showing the passion and empathy they bring to their work (and the reason they do this work).

Since the onset of the pandemic, we continue to learn about how it is affecting child support program families. In Michigan, over 2 million people have filed new claims for unemployment benefits from the Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) since the first shutdown in early March. [1] More than 258,000 Michigan child support parties have filed claims. While the peak occurred in late March to early April, we are still seeing over 3,500 new claims from Michigan child support parties filed each week (as of the week ending July 25). For comparison, there were roughly 5,000 new claims per week from everyone in the state at this point last year.