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Issue Alert - 04-10-01

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Oct 07, 2004

Issue Summary:

The Primary Caretaker must be determined for children that have multiple caretakers who do not live together.

Persons Affected:

Caretakers who do not live together that are raising children (ie-joint physical custody or parents/grandparents).

For More Information:

Center for Civil Justice320 S. Washington, 2nd Floor Saginaw, MI 48607 (989) 755-3120, (800)724-7441 Fax: (989) 755-3558E-mail:


Family Independence Program (FIP)<BR>Medicaid (MA)<BR>Food Assistance Program (FAP)<BR>PEM 210

What's Happening?

As a result of criticism from legislators, constituents, judges and the media, the Family Independence Agency (FIA) has changed this policy. The policy now is that a Primary Caretaker must be identified for every child that has multiple caretakers that do not live together. The Primary Caretaker is the caretaker who is primarily responsible for the child's day-to-day care and supervision in the home where the child sleeps more than half of the days in a month, when averaged over a twelve-month period. The twelve-month period begins at the time the determination is being made.Any other caretakers other than the Primary Caretaker are considered Absent Caretakers. Only Primary Caretakers may receive FIP, MA and/or FAP for the child.Exceptions: If otherwise eligible, an Absent Caretaker may receive benefits for a child when:
  • the child lives with the Absent Caretaker for more than 30 consecutive days and
  • the child does not meet the definition of being temporarily absent from the Primary Caretaker's home.
Vacations and/or visitation with an Absent Caretaker do not change the result of the Primary Caretaker determination. However, when a child is continuously absent from or expected to be continuously absent from the home of the Primary Caretaker for more than 30 consecutive days, (i.e., does not meet the definition of temporary absence), remove the child’s needs from the FIP case.

For active cases, the Primary Caretaker will be determined when:
  • a change occurs that will cause the child to sleep in another caretaker's home more than half the days in a month, when averaged over 12 months; or
  • a second caretaker claims that the child sleeps in his/her home more than half the days in a month, when averaged over the next 12 months; or
  • a second caretaker applies for assistance for the same child; or
  • the next redetermination is conducted.

What Should Advocates Do?

Advise clients of the change in policy and how it will effect current and future benefits they may be eligible for.

What Should Clients Do?

Seek legal advice if you feel that this policy is being applied incorrectly to your family.

Finding Help

Most legal aid and legal services offices handle these types of cases, and they do not charge a fee. You can locate the "free" legal services or legal aid office that serves your county on the Michigan LawHelp web site ( or look in the yellow pages under "attorneys" or call the toll-free lawyer referral number, (800) 968-0738.