It goes without saying that, regardless of family circumstance, parents must financially support children, since a child usually cannot work and earn income. The job of children, with the support and nurturance of their parents, is to do well in school and grow into well-rounded and responsible adults.
Under Maryland law, both parents have an equal responsibility to financially support their children. When the parents are not living under the same roof, the child is entitled to receive court-ordered child support pursuant to the Maryland Child Support Guidelines. Since, again, the child is a minor, in the applicable circumstance one or the other, or both parents must petition the court for an order establishing child support.
Note: We usually recommend that parents establish legal and physical child custody by court order first, and have the support naturally flow from the custodial arrangement (see details below).
Some parents are able to work out private arrangements for custody and child support on their own without court intervention, and are able to manage those particulars well. While in other cases, it is preferable to seek a court order that will govern the necessary arrangements until the child becomes an adult as defined by Maryland law.
It is always better to have a court order establishing arrangements for the child’s custody and care, because circumstances may change. If there is no court order in place, the court cannot and will not enforce any private arrangements or missed payments. You will have to start from square one.
Child support is calculated from the date that a filing seeking support is made in court. Thereafter, the case will proceed according to the Maryland Code and Rules of civil procedure that govern the family court. Most laypersons are unfamiliar with litigation and would benefit from experienced and affordable counsel and representation. (Next Time: Three Ways to Keep Your Attorneys Fees Low.) (Also coming soon: Three Ways to Tell If You Can Trust Your Family Lawyer.)
Often, there comes a time when one party or the other, or both seeks a change in child support. Parents may have their own reasons for seeking a change. However, the court will only order a change when the best interests of the child dictates that a change is necessary, meaning that the party receiving the upward or downward change, must establish a legally sufficient “material” and “substantial” “change of circumstance” providing jurisdiction for the court to change the previously ordered amount.
You may believe you have ample grounds for a change, but in reality making the legal showing required to secure a change may be difficult. Here are three reasons to lower or raise child support:
1. Your Child Emancipates or is Disabled. When a child turns 18 and also completes high school, upon proper application to the court, child support may cease. If there are arrears owed, the court may order that the payments continue until the arrears are paid in full. The support payment will not automatically stop when the child turns 18. You must return to court to secure an order extinguishing the support obligation. Likewise, if the child is disabled, the child may be entitled to support beyond the age of majority and the court will make those determinations case by case. Seek the counsel of a DEDICATED LAWYER to assist you in maximizing age or health-related changes in child support.
2. The Parents’ Income Changes Downward or Upward. A mistake many parents make is to unilaterally stop making support payments if their employment changes. Do not do this. Instead, you must file a petition for modification of the support amount and receive relief from the court before you stop paying. Likewise, if either parent’s income increases, there may be a basis to increase child support. There may be challenges in documenting the change, especially if it is due to self-employment or you are not sure of the other parent's work arrangements. Securing the services of an EXPERIENCED AND AFFORDABLE ATTORNEY to assist in documenting the changes and effectively arguing the case to the bench, may be an investment that is worth it for your child.
3. The Custodial Arrangement Changes. One of the reasons we are always trumpeting custody is that custody has a direct impact on the child support. The nature of the custodial arrangement is what dictates whether the support will be ordered on the basis of sole custody or shared custody. There are many cases where sole custody is indicated and child support should proceed accordingly. However, there are many other cases today where the parents can and should share custody in the best interests of their children, and doing so may dramatically impact child support. Hopefully the parties can agree on their arrangements. Either way, the services of a KNOWLEDGEABLE AND TENACIOUS LAWYER may be invaluable to securing the custody and child support that your child deserves.
Wishing you peaceful journeys. CALL US for experienced and insightful help today!