Child support in Maryland is intended to ensure a child’s custodian receives adequate support, usually from the non-custodial parent.
Child support is often ordered by the courts when two parents are no longer cohabiting. It is in the best interests 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 parents to provide for their children so as the children do not end up dependent on state-run welfare or 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 unless the parent has legally given up parental rights as sanctioned by the court and the other parent.
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, or if you’ve just settled a custody battle and are seeking child support compensation, seek out representation from your local child support attorney at Rice Law. We represent Maryland residents throughout Baltimore County, Dundalk, Howard, Anne Arundel, and Rosedale.
The judge will determine a fair and adequate amount of compensation for child support. The figure depends on a number of factors, namely:
The amount of money paid to the primary custodian 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.
Maryland uses a fixed formula to calculate child support. The formula is called the Child Support Guidelines. The court usually orders child support on the basis of the 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 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 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).
A child support calculator is available in Maryland and can be found on the website of the Maryland Child Support Enforcement Administration.
The levels of contribution made to children by parents 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 or children of the relationship.
As in the case of 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, escaping the legal costs of litigating this vexatious issue before a Master or a Judge. However, both parents must agree on the appropriate amount of child support.
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 akin to alimony because these direct payments are intended to be used to pay for the vital needs of the children like rent, food, and clothes.
The court retains the authority to amend or vary a child support order. It is not set in stone. Either parent can ask the court at a later date to raise or lower support if their circumstances change.
Child support payments in Maryland automatically end when the child reaches majority, dies or becomes emancipated.
This means the support obligation ends automatically, with some exceptions, when the child reaches the majority age which is 18 in Maryland.
State law requires continuation of child support payments for children who turn 18 while they are enrolled in high school. The court can also order a parent to pay for college expenses as child support if the parents made an agreement and that agreement forms part of a court order.
The issue of emancipation may be more complicated and a court often ends up deciding it. 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.
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. These additional areas may include
Child support orders can be very flexible. 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.
Under Maryland child support guidelines, payments may be modified if accompanied by proof of a material change in circumstances.
To succeed in a modification, the party that brings the case must present evidence of a change of circumstances. Courts are reluctant to modify child support agreements without evidence of a change in circumstances.
The custodial parent may receive increased child support payments in the following circumstances:
The non-custodial parent could be awarded more custody over the child or the children. This may be due to an illness or a renegotiation of the custody arrangement. An example is a teen child who has more control over visitation wanting to spend more time with the non-custodial parent.
A loss of a job by the party obligated to pay child support may lead to 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.
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.
When seeking the modification of 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 to the court.
A missed child support payment in Maryland can have serious consequences. It can lead to a warrant for your arrest and your imprisonment.
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 a child support agreement, it is the responsibility of the CSEA to file for child support on behalf of the requesting parent to obtain a child support order.
The office also has a payment collection role. It will help locate absent parents to reach a support agreement as well as obtaining court orders to set agreements up.
Maryland child support enforcement can be Draconian for those who fail to make payments.
If you are able to pay child support, a judge could find that you are in contempt of court and jail you for failing to obey a court order requiring you to pay child support.
People who fail to pay child support 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 over $150 in arrears.
Passports can be denied to people in arrears of child support and professional licenses can be withheld.
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 G. Randolph Rice, Jr., LLC, 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) 288-2900.