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.
An experienced family law lawyer would be aware of the Maryland Child Support Guidelines, which govern the calculation of each parent’s child support obligation. Under the Guidelines, courts must consider and calculate each parent’s income. In some cases, one or both parents may be unemployed, further complicating the issue. In such cases, courts typically will make a determination as to whether the unemployed parent is “voluntarily impoverished.” In order to make that determination, the courts will look at a variety of factors, such as the person’s education, physical condition, timing with respect to changes in employment or financial circumstances, past work history, particular job market conditions, efforts made to find and maintain employment, any history of withholding child support, and the parents’ relationship with each other.
If a finding of “voluntarily impoverished” is made, the court will likely “impute” or assign a certain amount of income that the parent is deemed to be able to earn at that moment in time. This is especially important because whether or not the parent is able to pay, the amount due and owing will continue to accrue. A news organization recently published a story about how child support debt has become a heavy burden for some of the poorest people in our country. The article profiled a parent from Maryland who has been behind in his child support payments and faces many hurdles in attempting to satisfy the amount outstanding. Some of the issues raised in the article include imputing income that does not exist, as well as balancing the responsibility of parents with the reality of their ability to pay.
While child support is typically regulated by state law, apparently the current administration has proposed changes to the child support rules, including a provision that would bar states from allowing child support to accumulate while the parent obligated to make those payments is incarcerated. It will be interesting to see whether significant changes are made to the current structure and how any revisions could affect Maryland families.
If you are confronting issues of child support or any family law-related matter, it is important that your financial and legal rights are protected every step of the way. Reaching out to an experienced attorney from the local area is an important first step to resolving your family law concerns in an efficient and productive manner. Anthony A. Fatemi is a Maryland family law attorney who has extensive experience representing parties in all aspects of divorce. Mr. Fatemi can be reached at (888) 519-2801 or (301) 519-2801.
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