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.
Next, the court reviewed whether the lower court applied the guidelines under Section 12-204 in reaching the determination that the mother was required to pay child support to the father. Here, each party submitted detailed financial statements in addition to extensive documentation. Accordingly, the court found that the trial judge reviewed both parties’ gross income, health insurance premiums, and extraordinary medical expenses when determining the amount of child support to award. Without a claim by the mother that the trial court’s determination of child support was inaccurate, the court found that there was no abuse of discretion in awarding child support for their destitute adult child.
It seems that had the mother raised the issue of the accuracy of the child support determination, there could have been a different outcome in the matter. This case is a good example of why divorcing parties need guidance from an experienced Maryland family law attorney. Anthony A. Fatemi is an experienced family law attorney representing parties throughout the state of Maryland. For help with your family law needs, you are encouraged to contact us at (301) 519-2801, or to submit our online contact form.
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