‘Material Change of Circumstances’ and Modifying an Order of Child Support in Maryland

When it comes to family law, especially as it relates to children, one of the things for which the courts strive is stability. To achieve that end, the law makes it very difficult to modify a child support obligation once a court order is in place. This is done to ensure the stability and ongoing proper support of that child. However, when a supporting parent does experience a major change, such as a dramatic reduction in income, the law does create a path to obtaining a reduction. That’s what happened in a recent Court of Special Appeals ruling, in which the court upheld a trial judge’s decision to reduce a father’s support amount in the wake of his job loss and massive decline in income.

In 2014, the father, Timothy Taylor, asked the trial court to reduce his child support obligation. Taylor was a software engineer who had recently lost his job. The mother, Yonelle Moore, opposed the father’s request. The trial court held a hearing and, at first, denied the father’s request for a modification and a reduction. Shortly thereafter, though, the court changed its order and reduced Taylor’s child support from $1,500 per month to $250 per month.

The mother appealed this decision. The centerpiece of the mother’s argument to the appeals court was that the law requires a “material change in circumstances” in order to modify an child support order, and the trial court in Taylor’s case had reduced his payments despite the absence of the mandatory change in circumstances.

The mother’s appeal was not successful. Under Maryland law, an event, in order to qualify as the sort of material change of circumstances required to allow a modification of child support, must do two things. It “must be relevant to the level of support a child is actually receiving or entitled to receive,” and it must be “of sufficient magnitude to justify judicial modification of the support order.”

Despite the mother’s arguments to the contrary, the father had the required proof to meet these requirements. He submitted to the court a letter stating that his employer was terminating his employment because a customer had decided to revoke his security clearance, but the employer encouraged Taylor to apply for other openings within its company. This, along with the father’s other proof, established that he had involuntarily lost his job and that this job loss had triggered a substantial reduction in his income.

Despite his efforts, the father had not secured another engineering job and had begun giving golf lessons. Before the job loss, Taylor was making $12,500 per month as a software engineer. After the job loss, he was making $1,366 per month as a golf instructor. His involuntary job loss (and replacement job) yielded a reduction of income that was more than 85%. Generally, if the change in your employment has triggered a 25% or more change in your income, Maryland courts may consider this a material change in circumstances and modify your support obligation.

If you are seeking to modify your child support obligation, or seeking to oppose an ex-spouse who is trying to lower or eliminate his or her payments, experienced family law counsel can help. Maryland child support attorney Anthony A. Fatemi has many years of experience helping parents in dealing with their child support modification cases. To put this office’s skills and resources to work for you, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.

More blog posts:

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

Maryland Family Code Sets Forth a Schedule to Determine Child Support Obligation, Maryland Divorce Lawyer Blog, Dec. 11, 2015

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