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.
In reviewing the matter, the court of appeals looked to §12-201(h) for a definition of income. The court ultimately affirmed the lower court’s decision, concluding that the record below shows that the father failed to prove that the $396,164.24 in deferred income had been included in the court’s prior calculations of child support. Specifically, the court noted that none of the documents provided addressed the specific issue of whether father’s income included the deferrals for all the years in question.
Here, it seems that if the father presented the court with the requisite evidence of specific calculations, a different result would have ensued. This case is a good example of the need to consult with an experienced family law attorney who fully understands the local state laws applicable to all phases of a divorce proceeding. 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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