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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Couples with children who decide to divorce must address a series of significant and possibly life-changing issues. In addition to the division of property and spousal support, parents must also face matters of child custody and support. Ideally, parents will agree on the custody situation that is in the best interests of the child. Courts often get involved to approve the arrangement and decide on a fair amount of monthly child support. Keep in mind that parties are able to seek a modification of the amount in the future, should a change of circumstances occur. Courts take very seriously an individual parent’s obligation to make child support payments in a timely fashion and may be called upon to enforce the order. To be sure that your financial and legal rights are protected, you are encouraged to contact an experienced family law attorney as soon as possible.
Maryland law provides local state agencies with the authority to collect overdue child support payments. In a recent Maryland court of appeals case, a local county Office of Child Support Enforcement (the “Office”) attempted to collect a judgment of almost $10,000 against an obligor-parent for unpaid child support. Here, the Office requested a circuit court to issue a writ of garnishment against the obligor’s bank, which in turn suspended the obligor’s two accounts. Under Maryland law (Section 11-504(b)(5)), a judgment creditor may “attach assets” of a debtor to satisfy a money judgment.
Child custody, visitation, and support are inter-related issues that arise within a typical divorce or separation proceeding. Courts are authorized to make determinations concerning legal and physical custody, the allotment of visitation time, and the amount of monthly child support (if any). In making these decisions, a court’s first and foremost priority is what scenario is in the best interests of the children. Every divorce case involving children presents a unique set of facts. For this reason, courts will determine the best interests of a child on a case-by-case basis. If you are considering a divorce, you are encouraged to contact an experienced Maryland family law attorney who can work to ensure that your family’s rights are protected.
A recent case in Pennsylvania (A.S. v. I.S.) is a good example of the complicated and unique nature of child custody and support cases. The Supreme Court in that State was asked to decide whether a stepparent may be obligated to pay child support for his former spouse’s biological children when he aggressively litigated for shared legal and physical custody of those children. In this case, I.S. gave birth to twins in 1998 in Serbia. She married A.S. in the United States seven years later. They separated in 2009 and agreed to share physical custody for a period of time. In 2010, A.S. (the stepfather) brought an action for divorce and filed a complaint for custody (upon learning that I.S. was planning to move to California with the children).
Under Maryland law, both parents are responsible for the care, welfare, support, and education of their children until each child graduates high school or turns 19 years old, whichever occurs first. In fact, the pertinent statute provides that the “basic child support obligation shall be divided between the parents in proportion to their adjusted actual incomes.” Keep in mind that it does not matter whether the couple is married or not. If they have children together and decide to part ways, one or both parties will be obligated to pay monthly child support.
Most states take very seriously the responsibility to pay child support. In fact, many local agencies are empowered to enforce such court orders to ensure that the monies due are paid. If you are filing for separation or divorce from your spouse or partner, it is extremely important that you understand your legal rights when it comes to paying or receiving child support. You are encouraged to reach out to an experienced Maryland family law attorney as soon as possible in the proceedings.
The issue of paternity or “parentage” can play an important role in family law cases. Paternity essentially identifies a child’s parents in the eyes of the law. As in most states, Maryland law sets forth that the parents of a minor child are jointly and severally responsible for the child’s support, care, nurture, welfare, and education. In some family law cases, even in matters where the parties are married and seeking to divorce, there can be disputes over the paternity of a child. It is important to fully understand the financial and practical implications of parentage in any family court dispute. Before you pursue any legal action, you are strongly encouraged to seek the help of an experienced Maryland family law attorney who can work to protect your rights.
In a recent Maryland divorce case, the father contested the issue of legal parentage in an effort to avoid any obligations or rights with respect to the child at the center of the dispute. Here, the couple got married in 2008 and entered into an “in-vitro” fertilization (“IVF”) plan in 2010. The parties each signed the contracts and other documents necessary to implement the plan. A child was then conceived and born with the help of a donated egg and donated sperm. Shortly after the child was born, the couple separated, and the father contested legal paternity.
When a couple chooses to divorce, there are many issues to address and resolve in order to move forward with their separate lives. Each family law case comes with a unique set of facts that can often dictate how the couple proceeds, to some extent. In an ideal case, the separating spouses will be able to come to an agreement on the most significant issues related to their marriage. And even when the parties do enter into a marital settlement agreement or some other consent agreement, one spouse or the other may attempt to challenge the terms down the road. In order to ensure that your separation or property settlement agreement complies with applicable Maryland law, you are encouraged to consult with a local, experienced family law attorney.
The importance of crafting and executing an enforceable agreement in any family-related matter cannot be overstated. In a recent case making national news, a divorced couple has been in court arguing over the fate of their frozen embryos. During their relatively short marriage, Dr. Mimi Lee and Stephen Findley chose to create five embryos upon learning that Dr. Lee had breast cancer. Two years ago, Findley filed for divorce and sought to have the embryos destroyed. Dr. Lee, 46, wants to implant the embryos, since she considers it her last chance to have a biological child.