Reasons For Child Support Modification In Maryland

During a Maryland divorce, one spouse may be required to pay child support to the other by court order. But what happens if circumstances change and there needs to be a modification to the child support amount? Learn more about this critical topic below, and if you have questions about modifying child support, please contact our Rockville child support attorneys at Shah & Kishore today.

About Modifying Child Support In Maryland

A change to the child support schedule does not occur automatically. You or the other parent must ask that the court modify the child support order with a written motion. To grant the child support modification request, show that the parties’ situations have materially changed. ‘Material’ means that the change is relevant to the situation, and the court will require clear proof of a change in circumstances, needs, or financial condition of the parents to modify the child support order. 

Some situations that might cause the judge to modify a child support order could be when the parent paying child support lives with the child. Or, you are unemployed, lack financial resources to make support payments, and:  

  • You are in jail or prison and are expected to remain there for the time that you are legally obligated to pay child support.
  • You are in a psychiatric care facility, and you are expected to be there when you are supposed to pay child support.
  • You are totally, permanently disabled and cannot keep a job, and you do not have income other than Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits or Supplemental Security Income
  • You cannot stay employed for the foreseeable future because of hospitalization, criminal detainment, or rehabilitation.

Other changes could support modifying the child support order. For instance, if the parent’s income has increased or decreased by 25% or more, this may be enough of a difference to require a modification. You may ask for a child support modification if your income has dropped significantly. 

A change in circumstances also can apply to the needs of the child. For instance, if your son becomes disabled or sick, the judge may increase the amount of child support.

What About Making Oral Changes?

Some parents make the mistake of changing the child support amount based on a conversation with the other parent. The parents may agree at one point on a larger or smaller amount, but making changes in this unofficial manner can cause problems later.

The biggest issue with oral agreements between parents is they may need to realize that it was vaguer and less clear than they thought. The memories of each party also can differ, so any agreement you make to change child support should be official and in writing.

For instance, suppose one parent pays the other $400 monthly for child support. That parent is laid off, so the parties agree verbally to make the payment $250 while that parent is out of work. Six months later, the paying parent gets their job back and starts paying $400 again, but there is a disagreement over the $900 that was not paid in the six months the parent was unemployed. This shows why any child support modifications should be made through the court. 

How To Request A Child Support Modification

A parent in Maryland can attempt to alter the child support order in two ways. First, once every three years, you can ask the Child Support Enforcement Office to go over the order for a change. If you ask for review and modification, it should be in writing, and maintain a copy so you can prove you requested it. 

Second, either parent may file a court motion to modify the order at any time. The motion should be filed in the circuit court where the original child support order was issued. If you need assistance modifying your child support order, your attorney can help.

Recent Changes To Maryland’s Child Support Law

Beginning July 1, 2022, several changes were made to the state’s child support law that you should know about. These changes could affect whether you pay or receive child support or are considering separation or divorce. 

First, the state legislature altered the Maryland Child Support Guidelines as of July 1, 2022, increasing child support for parents with an adjusted actual income (combined) of over $19,200 per year.

Next, the Child Support Guidelines were previously only ‘presumptively correct,’ which means using a statutory formula for calculating child support that the judge would put in the support order unless the parent convinced the court another amount was preferable. For example, this was the case for a couple with a combined adjusted actual income up to $180,000 annually.

However, the state legislature expanded these guidelines, so they are presumptively correct for parents with a combined adjusted actual income as high as $360,000 annually. The higher income threshold is anticipated to lead to more even child support scenarios for those in that income range. If you and your ex have an income over $360,000 per year, calculations for child support are at the judge’s discretion.

Changes To ‘Involuntary Impoverishment’

Before the July 1, 2022, changes, the family court considered the overall body of case law when deciding if income should be imputed for a parent who decides to work in an occupation that does not pay as much as they could be earning. Today, ‘voluntary impoverishment’ has a specific definition in the child support statute. The parent is defined as ‘voluntarily impoverished’ if they consciously decide to render themselves without sufficient financial resources.

The court shall determine whether the person is voluntarily impoverished by deciding what the parent’s potential income would be after considering these factors:

  • Assets
  • Age
  • Physical and mental health condition
  • Education level
  • Training or skills
  • Degree of literacy
  • Where you live
  • Total income
  • Earnings and employment history
  • Criminal history
  • Previous efforts to find and retain a job

It remains to be seen how effectively the courts can determine voluntary impoverishment under the new law. But many family law attorneys think the change is good news for the parent who has struggled to receive sufficient child support payments from their ex-spouse.

Contact Our Rockville Child Support Attorneys Today

Receiving adequate child support for their financial needs can be challenging after divorce. If you have questions about divorce and child support, we can help. Contact our Rockville child support attorneys at Shah & Kishore today at (301) 315-0001. 

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