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A new support tool for child support caseworkers and families

Michigan reinvents its child support calculator, emphasizing fairness and transparency.

Establishing the amount of support a family requires to support their children is complex. Like all US states, the State of Michigan has a specific formula to determine the correct level of child support per family, calculated via its child support calculator.

This calculator was not addressing all the needs of the caseworkers using it, nor providing enough transparency to parents to explain how the recommended support amount was derived. This left many parents confused about support amounts. And caseworkers did not have the tools or insight to explain why a parent should pay the recommended amount.

Accenture and Fjord worked with the State of Michigan team to enhance the calculator. After exploring the greater service system and learning from caseworkers who use the tool, the team pinpointed how to turn the child support calculator into a service aid.

The team quickly discovered that the main issue for parents was having an assurance that the resulting obligation was fair. In addition, caseworkers did not have the proper tools to fairly moderate these conversations.

The team approached the challenge as a service design one. The focus was to turn filling in the calculator into a clear, collaborative, human interaction that allowed caseworkers to explain to parents what the calculator was doing and how their child-support decision was reached.

The launch of the new calculator in in November 2015 delivered positive benefits for all involved:

  • Saving time via new dashboards. The team added personal home screens for all caseworkers, with a dashboard to show active cases and child support recommendations.

  • Transparency at all times. There is now a figure constantly visible in the bottom of the screen. For the first time, parents can see how the final figure is reached.

  • More information at hand. If parents ask what support they would get during any timeframe, the answer is just a click away with auto calculation.

  • More effective court time. The new calculator now creates a more exhaustive report specifically tailored to courtroom requirements.

With a focus on a better outcome for families, not just an easy-to-use automated tool, the team has been able to speed up the process, improve visibility of results and infuse transparency throughout the process. In the first 10 weeks the application was available, there was an 8.5 percent increase in the calculations associated to the court case. Additionally, users can accomplish the same results with a single calculation, which previously required two, reducing calculations from 52 to 26.

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