Articles Posted in Child Support

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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Most states have enacted uniform laws that govern child custody and support issues. Such uniform provisions serve to provide “systematic and harmonized approaches” to family issues that require immediate attention when the parents live in different states or countries. Since such parents live in different states or nations, the first issue that must be resolved is whether the court has proper jurisdiction over the person to handle the child custody or support dispute.

The governing statutory frameworks are:  1) the Maryland Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, or the UCCJEA, and 2) the Maryland Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, or the UIFSA. These statutes do not contain uniform provisions on jurisdiction, and in some cases courts are called upon to sort through the discrepancy. If you are facing a child custody or support matter of any kind, it is important to contact a Maryland family law attorney to find out how the law can affect your case.

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State courts take very seriously the issue of child support in any family law proceeding. Certain local agencies even have the authority to file a complaint against a party who has not met his or her obligation to make child support payments under a court order. This authority serves to protect the financial interests and overall well-being of a child, who is unable to advocate for him or herself. In most cases, it is clear who is obligated to make such payments:  one or both of the child’s parents.  But there have been cases in which the issue of “parentage” or paternity has come into question, resulting in a further question as to who is obligated to financially support the child. If you are facing any family law issue, including child custody or support matters, it is important that you contact a local Maryland attorney who is fully experienced in the field.

Establishing paternity is the first step to securing a child support order.  In a recent Maryland family law case, Davis v. Wicomico County Bureau of Support Enforcement, the local agency sought to enforce a child support order issued against the “father,” Justin Davis (appellant in this case). Here, the mother, Jessica Cook, gave birth to twins in December 2009.  Shortly after the birth, both parties, Davis and Cook, signed affidavits of parentage, attesting that Davis was the “natural father” of the twins.  They were given his last name.

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Under Maryland law, children born or conceived during a marriage are presumed to be the legitimate children of both spouses. The issue of paternity is important to settle as early in a child’s life as possible, for emotional, financial, and legal reasons. Once a man is determined to be the father, he is under a legal obligation to support the child. In some cases, a person may attempt to dispute paternity and any resulting court order regarding child support or custody issues. This is a matter that courts take very seriously. If you are facing a paternity, child custody, or support matter, it is important to contact an experienced family law attorney who can help to preserve and protect your legal rights.

This law referenced above does not take into account a situation where the spouses cease living together, fail to enter into divorce proceedings, and the wife bears children with another person. Under these circumstances, the marital presumption would kick in and the husband would be presumed to be the father of any children born during their marriage, whether he was living with the mother or not. In a recent case, the couple married in 2000 but stopped living together soon after. Neither spouse sought a divorce. But in the years since their marriage, the mother gave birth to five children, four of them within the time period when the couple was “estranged” Continue reading →

Divorce is difficult. Couples seeking to dissolve their marriage will likely face some challenging and potentially divisive issues, such as child custody and support, alimony, and the division of marital property. Ideally, the parties will set aside their differences to address these important matters in an effort to move forward in their separate lives. Fortunately, Maryland family law governs many aspects of the process, affording the parties somewhat of a blueprint of what to expect as they proceed through their case. But how these laws apply to the unique circumstances of any one family law case is not easy to predict. If you are considering divorce, it is important to contact an experienced family law attorney who can assess your case and provide you with a well-crafted strategy designed to achieve the best settlement for your situation.

Maryland courts take very seriously any issue related to child custody and support. In a recent family law case, the father sought to modify child support in accordance with §12-104 of the state code. Here, the parties were married in 1995 and had two children. In 2004, the couple entered into an agreement that was incorporated into the Judgment of Absolute Divorce. The agreement set the father’s monthly child support payments at $2,199, based on the parties’ separate income. It also provided that the amount should be recalculated every two years thereafter. Apparently, the father failed to disclose that his income increased dramatically over the years. In 2011, the court ordered the father to pay the mother $13,263 per month in child support, as well as arrears and other reimbursements. The father did not appeal the order.

But in 2012, the father filed a complaint seeking to modify child support, arguing that there had been a material change in circumstances because his income decreased by 25%. The dispute concerns the treatment of the father’s receipt in 2012 of $396,164.24 deferred compensation for child support purposes. According to the court, if it were not considered income, the father would be entitled to a modification of child support. If it is included in income, he would not. The court denied his request, concluding that the father failed to bring sufficient proof from which the court could determine what portion of the amount was a gain on the original deferred income. The father appealed, arguing that he met his burden of proving that he sustained a 25% decrease in income. He specifically argued that his deferred income, which was attributed to a parent in the years it was earned for the purpose of calculating child support, should not be counted a second time.

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As many people know, divorce can be difficult. There are serious practical, emotional and financial issues for the parties to identify, weigh, and hopefully resolve as amicably and quickly as possible. Since each family is unique, with its own set of personal facts and circumstances, there is no one simple solution for dissolution of marriage. The important thing to know, however, is that an experienced Maryland family law attorney can help to move your case along smoothly and efficiently, with the goal of protecting your interests and rights every step of the way.

When a divorcing couple has children, it can make the matter even more complicated. Issues such as child custody, visitation, and support have the potential to elicit strong disagreements between the spouses. In a recent Maryland court of special appeals case, the couple divorced in 2001, and the court granted the parties joint legal custody of their two sons but awarded the father sole physical custody. Child support was not given to either party. From 2002 until 2010, the mother lived in the state of Washington. During that time, one of their sons was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder and other medical issues. The boys had limited contact with their mother while she was in Washington. In 2012, the husband filed a motion for child support. He also asked the court: 1) to find that the son with autism was a “destitute adult child,” and 2) to order the mother to pay for medical expenses and for his attorney’s fees.

The wife opposed the motion and sought custody of one of their sons. The circuit court denied the motion to change custody, determined that the child was a destitute adult child, and ordered the wife to pay $850 per month in child support for both children, as well as the husband’s attorney’s fees. The wife appealed, arguing (among other things) that there was no analysis regarding the child’s total reasonable living expenses, and therefore child support should have been denied. She did not raise a question as to whether or not the court’s determination of child support was accurate. The court of appeals affirmed the decision in its entirety. Regarding the child support award, the court pointed to Maryland law, which makes it a misdemeanor for a parent with sufficient means not to provide support to his or her destitute adult child. Once a child has been determined to be so, the state child support guidelines under Family Law Section 12-204 apply to ascertain a parent’s support obligations. Here, the court found that the child was properly adjudicated a destitute adult child. Continue reading →

When a married couple has a baby in Maryland, each person in the couple is automatically viewed as being the legal parents of the baby. They automatically have the rights and obligations of parenthood. However, when a couple is not married, only the mother is automatically recognized as a parent with the attendant responsibilities and rights. Further action needs to be taken to establish paternity.

Establishing paternity is an important step to claiming the rights and responsibilities of fatherhood in Maryland. The court will not order custody, visitation, or child support unless paternity is established either because the father admits paternity or someone else proves he is the father. There are four ways to establish paternity. In addition to being married before the child’s birth, a couple can establish paternity by having the father and mother marry after the baby is born with the father verbally acknowledging the baby is his, the parents signing an Affidavit of Parentage and having the father’s name added to the birth certificate, or bringing a lawsuit to establish paternity.

Going to court is the most difficult of these options. However, you should not sign an affidavit if you are an alleged father with doubts about paternity. The affidavit is legally binding. By signing the affidavit, the father gets the right to go to court and ask for custody or visitation. Continue reading →

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