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.
According to the mostly undisputed facts, the husband and the wife were married in 2008. The husband agreed to pursue in vitro fertilization with the wife, consented to the process, and signed an acknowledgment form advising the parties of the purpose, risks, and benefits of the various reproductive procedures. In 2012, a son was born. His birth certificate indicated the husband and the wife as the child’s parents. A short time later, the parties separated, and the wife filed for a limited divorce and requested child support. The husband denied that he was the father of the boy and asked the court to determine whether he was the parent in accordance with Maryland law.
The trial court concluded that he was the father and was obligated to pay child support. At a later hearing, a judge determined that the husband had “voluntarily impoverished” himself, based on a review of a number of legal factors, including an effort to not maintain employment. Then, the court determined the husband’s “potential income” in order to calculate his child support obligation. The husband appealed. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed the decision. The husband appealed to the highest court in Maryland.
After conducting a thorough review of Section 1-206(b) and the interpretation of the term “artificial insemination,” the Court of Appeals also affirmed the ruling, The Court construed the law to preserve the legitimacy of a child conceived through the use of donated sperm and via artificial reproductive technology, as long as the husband consents to the process. The Court also looked at factors to be considered when determining whether a parent has “voluntarily impoverished” himself, and it concluded that here, the husband was in good health and had a sufficient amount of education, and nothing prevented him from finding employment. Therefore, the Court affirmed the lower court’s findings that the husband was voluntarily impoverished, and it imputed an income of $4,052 per month.
Ultimately, the Court concluded that the husband was the father of the child and was obligated to provide support. While this is a complicated set of facts, many divorce cases involve challenges to child support, among other contested issues. It is extremely important to protect your legal and financial rights from the outset by contacting an experienced family law attorney from the local area. Anthony A. Fatemi is a dedicated Maryland family law attorney with a great deal of experience representing parties in divorce and other related matters. For representation and legal guidance, you can contact Mr. Fatemi at (888) 519-2801 or (301) 519-2801.
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