Tuesday night, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that if a parent can prove they are unable to pay child support, they cannot be charged with a felony for the nonsupport.
The catch is, proving an inability to pay is quite difficult. Defendants must prove that they have sold off assets and exhausted their resources to be protected under the decision.
The ruling revolved around three Michigan cases in which parents argued they were unable to pay child support. The parents charged with nonsupport said they were denied their constitutional right to due process when circuit courts refused to consider evidence of their inability to pay.
In the majority opinion, Justice Mary Beth Kelly wrote, "we believe that to avoid conviction for felony nonsupport, parents should be required to have done everything possible to provide for their child and to have arranged their finances in a way that prioritized their parental responsibility so that the child does not become a public charge."
On the other side of the 4-3 decision, Democratic justices argue that the new standard favors prosecutors and is a "nearly insurmountable barrier" for poor people who are unable to pay child support.
Justice Marilyn Kelly said Michigan's rule is stricter than rules in 49 states.
-Elaine Ezekiel, Michigan Radio Newsroom