Baltimore, Maryland Child Support Modification Attorney
Child support is one of the most disputed issues in family law. Whether you are divorced or were never married, the parent with physical custody of shared children may go to court and ask for a child support order. Because child support is governed by Maryland law and court orders, there are often significant issues revolving around nonpayment or underpayment. This means it is vital to work with an attorney, and to go to court to have your child support order modified.
If you want your child support payments reduced or need to receive higher payments, talk to an attorney about how to have the court order altered. For a free consultation on your child support case, call Ken C. Gauvey of the Law Practice of Ken C. Gauvey today at 443-692-7685.
Determining Child Support Amounts in Maryland
Arriving at the original child support order amount is complex under Maryland law. The starting point is to determine the total amount of money each child needs for support. Maryland law creates a reference table, where the combined income for both parents produces the cost of raising a single child, two children, etc. This table bases the amount off economic data, and takes into account the total cost of caring for children, buying clothing, paying for housing, and feeding children of any age.
From there, the law breaks down how to determine the child support amount. In most situations, one parent (the “custodial parent”) has custody of the children for the majority of the calendar year. The court looks at each parent’s share of the income, the amount of time they spend with the children, and other necessary expenses (like healthcare). Courts consider the fact that when one parent has the children with them, they pay money directly toward the child’s support. This “direct pay” is part of the total child support calculation.
Under Maryland law, either parent can receive child support. In situations where one parent has custody the majority of the time, that custodial parent is often the one who receives payments. In situations where parents split custody evenly, either parent can receive support. There is no automatic preference between mothers or fathers, just as there is no automatic preference in child custody cases.
Though child support is common, it is never guaranteed. Child support is only ordered in appropriate circumstances, and in appropriate amounts. If circumstances change, child support amounts may need to be modified, or child support could be altogether terminated.
Modifying Child Support Orders in Baltimore
First, it is vital to understand that child support orders cannot be changed or terminated without court approval. You should never resort to self-help if you cannot afford child support payments or otherwise need the order changed. Talk to an attorney to understand what changes you may be entitled to.
Second, child support orders require a “substantial change in circumstances” to get a child support order amended. This typically includes financial changes, but would also include any other life changes that could affect the need for child support. Since child support is initially based off the total combined income of the two parents, if either parent changes jobs, is fired, or sees a substantial change in income, this could entitle either party to a change in child support. Alternatively, since child support changes based on the number of children, the birth or adoption of another child could also be the grounds for a change.
Note that changes must be “substantial” to justify a change in court orders. This means that the change must be relatively large. Something like an additional child to support is generally substantial, but minor changes in income, medical expenses, or the cost of living may not justify a change.
If you underpay or refuse to pay child support without first having modifications approved by a court, you could face enforcement and penalties for underpayment. First, failing to pay could be deemed a violation of a court order. This could mean penalties for contempt of court. Additionally, child support has its own rules for enforcement. The most popular penalty for underpayment is wage garnishment. This allows courts to order your employer or bank to withhold a portion of your paycheck to pay towards your unpaid child support obligations.
If your income is very low, or becomes very low, you may be entitled to pay lower child support. At very low combined income levels, the courts permit those paying child support to keep a “self-support reserve” to pay for their own needs.
Maryland Child Support Modification Lawyer
Baltimore child support modification lawyer Ken C. Gauvey can help you file to receive increased child support payments or help you reduce your child support burden. For your support order to change, you must first go to court and have the judge approve a petition for modification. For a free consultation on your child support changes, contact The Law Practice of Ken C. Gauvey today at 443-692-7685
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Columbia, MD 21046