Get the help you need from a Maryland child support attorney
Child support cases can be emotional and draining. A Maryland child support lawyer’s job is to ensure that the child’s custodian is compensated by anyone who is also legally responsible for caring for the child.
If you are concerned you are being deprived of adequate compensation for caring for your child, need to draft or modify a child support agreement, ensure payments are made or need to understand child support laws, the attorneys at the Law Offices of Randolph Rice can help.
We work tirelessly on behalf of you and your children. A Baltimore personal injury lawyer from our firm can represent Maryland residents throughout Baltimore County, including Dundalk and Rosedale, and Howard and Anne Arundel counties.
Understanding child support
Child support in Maryland is intended to ensure a child’s custodian receives adequate support, usually from the non-custodial parent. The parent who has primary physical custody of the children is known as the custodial parent.
This is the parent who receives child support. The non-custodial parent who does not have primary physical custody of the children will pay child support.
The courts often order child support when two parents are no longer cohabiting. It is in the best interest of a child to receive financial support from both parents.
Typically, the parent with less time with the children makes payments to the parent with primary physical custody. However, other factors are part of the calculation such as the relative incomes of the estranged parents.
It is also good public policy to require both parents to provide for their children. This is so the children do not end up dependent on state-run welfare, support programs or become wards of the state.
Child support may even be ordered in cases where a parent has no contact with his or her children. This is so, unless the parent has legally given up parental rights as sanctioned by the court and the other parent.
These arrangements can change depending on the income of each parent. It can also change when the parents share physical custody of the children. Shared physical custody is defined as an arrangement whereby each parent keeps the children overnight for more than 35 percent of the year (127 overnights).
The Maryland Child Support Calculator – The Formula Used to Calculate Child Support
Maryland uses a fixed formula to calculate child support. The formula is called the Child Support Guidelines. The court usually follows these guidelines unless it can be shown that those guidelines would be unjust and inappropriate in a given case.
Under Maryland law, the formula will be followed unless it produces an “inequitable result.”
The figure depends on a number of factors, namely:
- Child Custody Rights and Visitation Rights: Compensation may be partially determined by the custody and visitation rights of any parents, custodians, or legal guardians involved in the child’s upbringing. The number of overnight stays each parent has with the children has a bearing on child support.
- Incomes: Also taken into consideration are the income of the parents, custodians, or legal guardians.
- Child Care Expense: Any costs associated with caring for a child may be taken into consideration. This includes the cost of food, transportation, daycare, and special needs.
- Healthcare Costs: Which parent is paying for the child’s healthcare may also form part of the equation when settling on appropriate monetary compensation for child support.
A child support calculator is available on the website of the Maryland Child Support Enforcement Administration.
Modification of Child Support Orders in Maryland
Under Maryland child support guidelines, payments may be modified if accompanied by proof of a material change in circumstances.
Common changes that lead to a child support modification are as follows:
- The loss of a job;
- A promotion and associated pay raise;
- Changed custody agreements
Courts are reluctant to modify child support agreements without evidence of a change in circumstances.
Changes That May Warrant an Increase in Child Support Payments
The custodial parent may receive increased child support payments in the following circumstances:
- A promotion, a better paying job or a source of additional income that gives the non-custodial parent more money;
- The primary caregiver loses his or her job and suffers a decrease in income;
- Increased costs associated with raising the child. As a child grows older, food, clothing, medical expenses and out-of-school expenses often increase, making the non-custodial parent’s financial obligation greater.
Changes That Lead to a Decrease in Child Support Payments
Changes in custodial arrangements
If a the non-custodial parent is awarded more custody over the child, child support payments could decrease. This may be due to an illness or a renegotiation of the custody arrangement.
An example may be a teen child who has more control over visitation wanting to spend more time with the non-custodial parent.
An involuntary loss of income
If the non-custodial parent loses his or her job, that may lead a reduction. However, if you voluntarily give up your job, the law is unlikely to reduce your child support obligation.
Temporary unemployment by seasonal workers likely will not qualify for a reduction in child support payments.
A substantial increase in the primary custodian’s income
If the primary caregiver comes into a large inheritance or sees a significant increase in income, this is a potential ground for a child support payment reduction.
Mistakes Made in Child Support Modification Orders
When modifying child support orders, one of the most frequent mistakes the parties make is to rely on oral agreements rather than written agreements.
If an agreement is not in writing, you can be held responsible for missed payments if you are taken to court. The fact you lost your job or experienced another change in circumstances will make little difference in the eyes of the law.
A missed child support payment in Maryland can have serious consequences. It can lead to a warrant for your arrest and imprisonment. If you want help modifying a child support agreement, the attorneys at the Law Offices of Randolph Rice can help.
Elements of a Maryland Child Support Order
1. Direct Money Payments
A child support order in Maryland entails direct payments to the custodial parent and not the children. This can be a source of frustration to a non-custodial parent who may see it as a form of alimony. Some parents refuse to make the payments.
However, child support is not the same as alimony because these direct payments are intended to be used to pay for the vital needs of the children like rent, food, and clothes.
2. The Court Can Change the Order
The court retains the authority to amend or vary a child support order. The payment amount is not set in stone. Either parent can ask the court at a later date to raise or lower support if their circumstances change.
3. The Payments are Finite
Child support payments in Maryland automatically end when the child reaches 18, dies or becomes emancipated. There are, however, some exceptions.
State law requires continuation of child support payments for children who turn 18 while they are still enrolled in high school. The court can also order a parent to pay for college expenses as child support if the parents had made such an agreement and that agreement forms part of a court order.
The issue of emancipation may be more complicated. Typically, emancipation occurs when a child marries or becomes self-supporting. There are shades of gray related to the meaning of self-supporting.
Child support will continue to be charged against the non-custodial party until he or she files in court to terminate it.
Child Support is About More Than Money
A Maryland child support decree is about more than direct monetary payments to the custodial parent. The order frequently addresses other needs of the child.
The court has many choices in creating a support arrangement a judge thinks is in the best interests of the children. The intention of the court is to maintain the lifestyle the children enjoyed before the divorce, subject to the parents’ finances.
A parent may be ordered to maintain health insurance for the benefit of children, meet the costs of medical bills, daycare costs, expenses for private schools, music or other tuition and other expenses related to a child’s everyday life.
Maryland Child Support Enforcement
Maryland’s Child Support Enforcement Administration (CSEA) works closely with divorced and separated parents to make the process of paying and receiving child support easier. The office is responsible for enforcing agreements made between the parties.
When the parties are unable to reach an agreement, it is the responsibility of the CSEA to file for a child support order on behalf of the requesting parent.
The office also has a payment collection role. It will help locate absent parents to reach a support agreement, as well as obtain court orders to set agreements up.
The Penalties for Not Paying Child Support in Maryland
Maryland child support enforcement can be draconian for those who fail to make payments.
If you are able to pay child support and you do not, a judge could find that you are in contempt of court and jail you for failing to obey a court order.
People will also have their driver’s license suspended if they fall behind on their child support payments.
Federal and state laws authorize the Child Support Administration to intercept state income tax refunds when child support is $150 overdue.
People behind in child support can be denied passports and professional licenses can be withheld.
When Courts Become Involved in Child Support
The levels of contribution parents make to children is rarely a concern for a court during a marriage or a committed relationship. All that changes when parents divorce or stop living together as a family.
The court is routinely required to decide how much support the non-custodial parent must pay for a child of the relationship.
As in the case of child custody, the level of support can be decided by agreement or by litigating the issue in front of a judge.
If parents agree on an appropriate amount of child support, the figure can be included in the marital separation agreement. By agreeing to a child support number, you can avoid making child support a contested issue.
You will escape the legal costs of litigating this vexatious issue before a family court magistrate or a judge. However, both parents must agree on the appropriate amount of child support.
Talk to An experienced Maryland Child Support Attorney
Divorce is a stressful and difficult procedure, especially when children are involved. You may have legitimate reasons for feeling you are paying too much child support, or you may believe your ex-spouse is not paying enough.
Often parents are unaware of their child support rights in Maryland. At the Law Offices of Randolph Rice, we understand the pressures of family law and the difficulties faced by parents. Contact our experienced family law attorneys today for a consultation at (410) 694-7291.