Support orders set record

Published 4:40 pm Thursday, March 1, 2012

CASSOPOLIS — Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz’s Child Support Division secured a record-breaking 315 support orders for county children in 2011.
Support orders averaged 187 from 1998 through 2010.
In January and February 2012, 55 orders were secured. Similar numbers projected over the balance of this year would result in a total of 330 child support orders.
Each child support order requires the parents — not the state — meet various financial needs for their minor children.
“Bottom line,” Fitz said Thursday, “more parents are involved in the lives of their children. That’s a good thing.”
As in previous years, Fitz’s office stressed the importance of identifying fathers and getting them involved in their children’s lives.
A positive parent-child relationship, increased stability and improved social and academic well-being are some benefits of a father’s involvement.

Medical needs addressed
Child support orders also include a provision seeking coverage of a child’s medical needs.
“When both the natural mother and the natural father are involved in a child’s life, the emotional and economic future of that child generally becomes much brighter,” Fitz said.  “When parents are invested in children, overall involvement in the criminal justice system is substantially reduced. It’s just common sense supported by concrete data.”
Fitz praised his child support staff and other agencies for their “hard work and perseverance” in 2011 on behalf of Cass County children.

Establishing paternity
The prosecutor’s office routinely seeks to establish the father’s identity when an out-of-wedlock birth occurs.
The office generally establishes paternity in one of two ways: the prospective father submits to DNA testing or signs an acknowledgement of paternity and agrees to court-ordered child support.
“Child support establishment is a multi-agency effort,” Fitz said. “The Department of Human Services refers cases to the prosecutor’s office. The prosecutor’s office establishes paternity and child support and the Friend of the Court, in conjunction with the prosecutors’ office, Family Court and, in some circumstances, Circuit Court, enforces child support orders.”
Child support payments are based on the noncustodial parent’s income level and ability to pay.
A parent ordered to pay child support can request a decrease in payment in the event of a job loss or income reduction.

Annual child support orders obtained by Cass County Prosecutor’s Office, 1998-2011

2011 — 315
2010 — 294
2009 — 255
2008 — 304
2007 — 171
2006 — 210
2005 — 200
2004 — 160
2003 — *73
2002 — 146
2001 — 145
2000 — 154
1999 — 186
1998 — 140

(*In 2003 counties across Michigan experienced a significant one-year reduction in child support orders due primarily to delays caused by the implementation of a new statewide computer system.)