Most people know that a parent who owes child support owes that obligation until the child turns 18 (or 19 if the child turned 18 while still in high school,) unless a court order terminates that obligation at some earlier point. Many families in which one parent owes an obligation of support may experience substantial life changes during those years and, sometimes, those changes may occur when the child is 17. In those situations, you may wonder, what can I do if I can’t get a court date before the child’s 18th birthday? Fortunately, the mere fact that your child turned 18 before your court hearing does not automatically deny you the right to get a modification that relates to the support you paid before the child turned 18. To make sure that you are approaching your case properly to get what you deserve, be sure you have obtained legal representation from a knowledgeable Maryland family law attorney.
A recent case that originated in Montgomery County offers an example of what a supporting parent can do. The parents, Y.B. and M.K., were married for two months when the wife filed for divorce. On Aug. 24, 2001, M.K. gave birth to the couple’s only child, a son. By the fall of 2018, the father had sole legal and physical custody of the son, and the mother paid child support.
In November 2018, the son began living outside the father’s home, staying with various friends. The mother, in turn, went to court in early 2019 to seek a modification of child custody and her child support obligation. However, the case did not come for a hearing right away and, in fact, when the son turned 18 in August 2019, the case was still pending.
When the case finally came before a judge in October 2019, neither parent contested that the son was already 18 and no longer in high school. On that basis, the judge denied the mother’s request to modify custody because the child was now an adult and neither parent had legal custody.
While the child’s having turned 18 may have wiped out the mother’s custody modification case, the child support issue was different. As the appeals court explained in M.K.’s case, the child’s 18th birthday did not extinguish the mother’s rights as it related to the child support she paid when the son was 17. The key date for that issue was the date that she filed her motion for modification, not the date of the court hearing.
The mother filed her motion in January 2019, seven months before the son turned 18. As a result, the mother was entitled to pursue her case seeking reimbursement of the money she paid to the Maryland Child Support Enforcement Agency during the months when the father was not providing the son’s room and board.
What you can take away from this case is that there sometimes are events that may make you think you have “run out of time” to pursue a legal matter. Don’t make that determination on your own. Instead, seek counsel from an experienced professional. For reliable advice and effective advocacy when it comes to your divorce, alimony, child support or child custody issues, rely on the knowledgeable Maryland family law attorneys at Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC. Our attorneys have many years of experience successfully helping countless Maryland spouses and parents to achieve positive results through the legal system. Contact us at 888-519-2801 or via our online form.