With the current economic climate, it may be time to look at your child support situation.
If you are paying child support: Have you lost your employment? Has your income been reduced by a reduction in hourly wage? Has there been a reduction in your hours worked per week?
If you are receiving child support: Has your income been reduced? Do you know or suspect that the other parent is receiving more income since child support was last reviewed?
Child support may be reviewed and modified when there is a material change of circumstances that impacts the minor child. Examples of “material change in circumstances” would be loss of employment, change of employment, or a significant increase or decrease in income of either party. If the parties are able to exchange information voluntarily, the Maryland Guideline Child Support worksheet may be completed and a consent order may be filed with the Court. After the filing of a complaint to modify child support and an answer from the responding party, the Court will schedule the matter for a brief testimony hearing to review the requested modification. If the parties are unable to agree, after the filing of the complaint to modify custody and any response from the responding party, the Court will set the matter in for a hearing to determine the appropriate child support in accordance with the Maryland Child Support Guidelines. If the responding party does not file an answer after proper service, the complaining party may ask the Court to find the responding party in default. After the Default Order is entered, the Court can proceed to hear the testimony from the complaining party, with or without participation from the other party.
Child support is not officially changed to the “new” amount until the order modifying the child support is entered by the Court. If you are paying child support, you should continue to pay the “old” amount under the currently existing order until the modification order is in effect, unless the order modifying child support is a Consent Order that increases child support and you have agreed to start paying the increased amount on a certain date. If you pay a decreased amount before the order decreasing the amount of child support is entered by the Court, you could be found to owe an arrearage in child support.
If you have lost your employment, you should immediately contact your attorney or the Office of Child Support Enforcement to file a complaint to modify child support. If you don’t modify the child support during your period of unemployment, or underemployment, the Court can enforce the Child Support Order that is currently in effect. This may cause an arrearage in child support that could be very costly. Also, the Court can only order a change in the amount of child support from the date that a complaint to modify child support is filed. So, the longer you delay after losing your employment, the more your arrearage may accumulate.
If you are unable to pay the child support and/or arrearages, the Court can order a “purge” provision. A purge provision requires you to pay a certain amount of money toward the child support and/or arrearages in a certain amount of time, and it can be a lump sum or a separate payment over time. In order to enforce payment of child support and/or arrearages, money that you are receiving from the state, such as tax refunds, can be attached; your driver’s license or other state licenses may be suspended; and other sanctions may be ordered.
Keep in mind, child support is mandatory in Maryland, unless the Court has a valid reason to decrease a parent’s obligation. The parent who is receiving child support is deemed to have a need for support in order to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter and other necessities for the child while the minor child is in that parent’s custody. The Maryland Legislature has determined the mandatory amounts to be paid in child support. The Court is charged with enforcing the statutes that have been enacted by the Legislature.
Child Support Review