Father’s Ill-Timed Appeal Costs Him in His Maryland Child Support Modification Case

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.

The appeals court refused to give the father the relief he sought. In many cases, a child’s turning 18 or a supporting parent’s loss of employment can be the sort of significant change of circumstances that would trigger a reduction in the supporting parent’s obligation amount. So why did the Court of Special Appeals not rule for the father? It came down to procedure and following procedural rules. The rules give parties a period of 30 days after a final court order has been entered to file an appeal. The law does not allow a party to file an appeal before the lower court order has been entered. In Richard’s case, he appealed after the magistrate had made his recommendations but before the circuit court had entered its order.

The Maryland rules don’t allow a party to appeal a magistrate’s proposed order directly to the Court of Special Appeals. In other words, the magistrate’s action was not appealable at all, and the father filed his appeal outside the 30-day window that started with the entry of the circuit court’s decision.

For skillful and determined representation regarding your child support or other family law issue, reach out to Maryland child support attorney Anthony A. Fatemi. Our office has been helping parents with these issues for many years. To find out how we can help you, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.

More blog posts:

‘Material Change of Circumstances’ and Modifying an Order of Child Support in Maryland, Maryland Divorce Lawyer Blog, Sept. 30, 2016

Maryland Court Interprets Conflicting Statutes in Child Support Case, Maryland Divorce Lawyer Blog, April 13, 2016


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