Articles Posted in Child Support

When it comes to setting up a child custody schedule in Maryland as part of a divorce, small differences have the potential to have massive impacts. A difference of just a few overnights can greatly alter what will owe in child support. Potentially, one or two extra overnights may mean owing hundreds, or even thousands, less in child support every month if those extra nights give you shared custody. In other words, it pays to exercise great care when it comes to a custody schedule in a marital settlement agreement. And it pays to have an experienced Maryland child support lawyer on your side who knows this and other nuances of the law keenly well, to get you the best outcome possible.

So, how can just a slight alteration of a custody schedule make such a big difference in child support? As a recent case illustrated, the key lies in Maryland’s definition of shared custody versus sole custody. In this state, the dividing line is 35%, or roughly 128 overnights. If you have fewer than that, then the other parent has sole physical custody. If you have more than that, then you and the children’s other parent have shared physical custody.

That recent case involved a father who had visitation on alternating weekends, alternating Wednesday evenings, some federal holidays and part of the summer break. He was also required to pay $2,620 per month in child support but later asked the judge to reduce his obligation. He argued that his support obligation was being calculated as if the mother had sole physical custody but, based on the number of overnights the children had with him, the parents shared joint physical custody.

Settlement agreements can be very helpful tools in resolving some or all of the outstanding issues in your Maryland divorce case. Settlement agreements can help you reduce the time and money spent on litigation, as well as potentially reduce lingering hostility with your spouse that can accompany prolonged litigation. One of the keys to achieving a successful result through an agreement of this nature, though, is making sure that you understand exactly what you’re agreeing to, and that those terms really do meet your needs. To make sure that you are getting the outcome that best helps your family, whether through litigation or settlement, be sure you have a skilled Maryland family law attorney on your side.

The divorce of J.M. and L.M. was a case that represents an example of a settlement agreement scenario gone wrong, at least from the husband’s perspective. The pair had one child, a daughter, in 2010. In October 2016, the wife filed for divorce. The couple reached a mutual agreement on child support and child custody. The agreement stated that the pair would share joint custody and also laid out the exact amount of child support the father would owe each month.

After the court entered the judgment that finalized the couple’s divorce, the father sought to have the judgment thrown out. Specifically, he complained that the amount of child support that he was now obligated to pay was not “legally correct” and represented an upward deviation of some 565%.

Perhaps you are an adept writer, perhaps you’re not. Either way, chances are high that the topics about which you communicate very successfully and persuasively on a daily basis are things related to your profession. You probably don’t know all of the rules and requirements, or the “tricks of the trade,” that come with engaging in effective trial practice or appellate practice, nor should you be expected to. What you should do, if you find yourself involved in litigation, is make sure that your case doesn’t get defeated by all-too-avoidable procedural problems. Instead, be sure to retain the services of a skilled Maryland divorce attorney to handle your representation.

A recent case from Prince George’s County served as an example of how representing oneself can go very wrong. The case was one regarding child support and custody. At the end of the hearing, the trial judge awarded sole legal and physical custody to the father, J.H. The mother, S.S., was ordered to pay child support and received no visitation.

This, obviously, was a very severe and profoundly unsuccessful outcome for the mother. Her plan for going forward was to file a motion asking the court to rescind the order. She did so without the aid of an attorney. The trial judge upheld the order, concluding that, because there was no fraud, mistake or irregularity, there was no basis for rescinding the order.

Every parent has her or his own specific notion of the experiences that she or he considers to be integral to her or his child’s formative years. This may include discipline-building activities like participating in team sports. It may mean cultural activities like music or dance. It could mean spiritual opportunities like church camp. While a parent might consider any one (or more) of these essential to a child’s development, the law sees them differently when it comes to paying for these activities and determining a parent’s child support obligation. As a non-custodial parent, one of the keys to maintaining a full and vibrant relationship with your child is making sure that you are not financially overburdened by paying a child support obligation greater than what the law really says it should be. By working with knowledgeable Maryland child support counsel, you can give yourself a better chance of achieving a fair outcome in accordance with what the law dictates.

One example of a dispute over extracurricular activities and child support was the divorce case of Elizabeth and Robert. The trial court judge awarded custody of the boys to the father. The court also ordered the mother to pay $840 per month in child support, as well as one-half of the boys’ medical expenses and “all agreed-upon extracurricular activities.”

After the conclusion of the case, the mother appealed, and she won that appeal. The problem with the lower court ruling was the way that the trial court went about setting the mother’s financial obligations. The appeals court was clear that, under Maryland law, a parent’s child support obligation should not factor in a child’s extracurricular activities as an additional form of mandatory support above and beyond the basic support obligation, even if those activities are desirable. The only way that a court can tack on these activities is if they are necessary for a child’s special needs, such as “advanced programming” for a gifted child or remedial tutoring for an academically challenged child.

There is the saying that “timing is everything.” While timing may not be everything in your family law case, it certainly is an important thing and can be a “make or break” thing in some cases. Making sure that all of the necessary documents are filed within the required time period is one area in which an experienced family law attorney’s detailed knowledge of the law can pay dividends and allow you to avoid the traps that can defeat your case.

One example of a situation in which a failure to follow the timing rules impaired a litigant’s case was a child support modification request involving a father named Richard. Richard and Eleanor were a married couple with three children. When the couple divorced, the divorce judgment entered by a Prince George’s County judge in 2007 ordered the husband to pay child support for all three of the children.

Nine years later, the Office of Child Support Enforcement filed a request with the court to modify child support. The office explained to the court that the father had notified them that he was unemployed and that two of the three children had become legal adults. The case went before a magistrate. At the end of the hearing, the magistrate announced that he would be recommending that the court deny the request for a reduction. The father asked for reconsideration, but that was not successful. The magistrate subsequently completed a proposed order denying the modification. The father swiftly appealed to the Court of Special Appeals. A week after the father filed his appeal, the circuit court judge accepted the magistrate’s recommendation and entered an order denying the modification. The father took no further action.

In child support cases, the supporting parent’s income is often one the most essential pieces of evidence in determining how much support he or she should pay. Sometimes, though, that parent may engage in actions to try to dodge paying child support. One of these actions is voluntary impoverishment. As a recent Maryland Court of Special Appeals decision reminds us, when the recipient parent gives the court proof of voluntary impoverishment, and the supporting parent does nothing to rebut that proof, it is proper for the trial court to impute additional income to the supporting parent and calculate child support based upon that higher figure.

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A recent case of grandparent custody offers some useful information regarding how that process can work. In an opinion issued this month by the Court of Special Appeals, that court upheld a trial judge’s giving custody of a child to his paternal grandparents over either parent because, even though the law has a presumption in favor of parental custody, that can be overcome when the parents are unfit, and exceptional circumstances exist. The appeals court also upheld the child support order, concluding that the child support guidelines applied regardless of whether the custodian was a parent or a third party.

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When it comes to family law, especially as it relates to children, one of the things for which the courts strive is stability. To achieve that end, the law makes it very difficult to modify a child support obligation once a court order is in place. This is done to ensure the stability and ongoing proper support of that child. However, when a supporting parent does experience a major change, such as a dramatic reduction in income, the law does create a path to obtaining a reduction. That’s what happened in a recent Court of Special Appeals ruling, in which the court upheld a trial judge’s decision to reduce a father’s support amount in the wake of his job loss and massive decline in income.

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The Maryland Family Law Code makes clear that parents are responsible for their child’s support, including their care, nurture, welfare, and education. While this may seem like a straightforward and reasonable legal concept, there are instances in which an alleged parent challenges this obligation or attempts to avoid the support obligation altogether. Local state agencies and courts work to ensure that a parent who is legally obligated to support a child actually fulfills that responsibility. In many divorce cases, a judge will require one party to pay monthly child support. To be sure that your financial interests are adequately protected upon separation from your spouse, you are encouraged to consult with an experienced Maryland family law attorney as soon as possible.

In a lengthy and complicated divorce case, the husband sought to avoid responsibility for child support by contending that he was not the father of a child conceived via in vitro fertilization under the plain meaning of Maryland’s artificial insemination statute. Specifically, the father alleged that the law does not encompass the process of in vitro fertilization from a donated egg and sperm, in which the child conceived and born bears no genetic connection to either of the parties.

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Establishing paternity or “parentage” is fundamental to a child’s life for many reasons. For one, parents are legally responsible for the care and general welfare of their children, including financial support. Paternity becomes even more important in cases in which the alleged parents are divorced or have never been married. There are several ways in which parties may establish parentage under Maryland law. For instance, the parents may agree to sign an affidavit in support of paternity, a court may find that paternity has been established, or the father may undergo DNA testing. Virtually every aspect of family law is governed by the state code or established case law. In order to be sure your financial and legal rights are protected, you are encouraged to discuss your case with an experienced Maryland family law attorney.

A recent Maryland Court of Appeals case illustrates how complicated paternity cases can be, and how important it is to work out the legal aspects as early in a child’s life as possible. In Davis v. Wicomico County Bureau, “petitioner” signed an Affidavit of Parentage shortly after the birth of his twin sons in 2009. The local child support agency brought a complaint against petitioner, alleging that he was responsible for child support payments. Petitioner, however, asked for a paternity test, claiming that he was not the children’s parent. Both the trial court and the court of special appeals denied his request for a paternity test. The court of special appeals concluded that under Sections 5-1028 and 5-1038, petitioner was not entitled to a blood or genetic test.

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