Parents in Maryland have a legal duty to support their children. When parents cannot agree about the amount of support they should pay after a separation or divorce, Maryland child support lawyer Jules Bricker helps them resolve those disputes. Although most child support issues can be resolved without contested court proceedings, some parents cannot come to an agreement about child support. In those cases, Attorney Bricker helps clients make the strongest possible case to the judge who will decide the issue.
In Maryland, the duty to support children exists during marriage and after divorce. When parents live together in an intact family unit, the law generally assumesthat they are taking care of their children in the absence of evidence to the contrary. When parents separate or divorce, however, Maryland law typically imposes a duty to provide financial support for children in the form of regular payments that one spouse makes to the other.
The duty to support a child exists whether or not the child is living with or spending time with the parent. The obligation to support children belongs to both parents, but in most cases the parents do not have equal financial resources and do not spend equal time with the children.
When one parent has physical custody of the children, that parent is probably providing their basic needs for food, housing, clothing, and transportation.The legal system in Maryland recognizes that a parent with physical custody usually requires a financial contribution from the other parent to divide financial responsibility for the children fairly. That contribution is called a child support.
Maryland Child Support Guidelines
The legal principle governing child support in Maryland requires a comparison of each parent’s need for support and each parent’s ability to pay. When the children spend significantly more time living with one parent than the other, that custodial parent usually has a greater need for support. Ability to pay is determined by comparing the incomes of the two parents.
Since 1990, Maryland law has required courts to consider child support guidelines. Those guidelines take need and ability to pay into account so that all parents in similar situations will be treated in the same way.
Judges follow Maryland’s child support guidelines unless they are persuaded that doing so would be unjust given the unusual facts of a particular case. Courts must always act in the best interests of the child. It is difficult to persuade a judge that the best interests of the child will be served by ordering a smaller child support payment than the guidelines require. If parents have exceptionally high incomes, however, the court has more discretion to depart from the guidelines.
In a typical case, the parent who has primary physical custody will receive a child support payment from the other parent. If custody is shared equally, the parent with the greater income will usually be ordered to make a support payment to the parent with a lower income.
The child support calculation takes into account:
- The amount of time the children spend with each parent
- The monthly incomes of each parent
- Any obligations the parents have to pay child support for another child
- Certain other expenses each parent must pay, including health insurance, uninsured healthcare costs, and childcare expenses
If a parent chooses not to work in order to avoid making child support payments, the income the parent could be earning will be “imputed” to that parent. In other words, the court will calculate child support based on potential earnings. When a parent is hiding income, a Maryland child support lawyer may need to do some detective work to discover the actual income that the parent is earning.
Modifying and Enforcing Child Support
If some time has passed since child support was first calculated, the payment that was ordered may no longer be fair. A change of circumstances, such as the loss of a job or a new job with a higher salary, will often justify a modification of child support. If the income of either parent goes up or down by at least 25 percent, the court is likely to consider modifying a child support payment.
Parents with child support obligations are often ordered to make a monthly payment directly to the other parent. When they are not meeting that obligation, enforcement efforts may include asking the court to order a “wage assignment” that requires the payments to be deducted from the parent’s paycheck. Parents who are owed back support can also ask the court to hold the other parent in contempt of court.
Helping Maryland Parents for 25 Years
Whether you are seeking child support, want to modify a child support payment, need help enforcing child support, or are facing contempt proceedings for an alleged failure to pay support, the Law Offices of Jules Bricker, P.A. can assist you. With 25 years of experience as a Maryland divorce and child support lawyer, Jules Bricker understands how Maryland law applies to your situation.
Clients praise Attorney Brickerfor his compassionate and diligent attention to their child support needs. Attorney Bricker’s motto — “protecting what matters most” — means protecting the right of children to be supported. At the same time, it means protecting clients from unfair burdens and from needless, costly litigation to resolve disputes when the outcome of a child support trial would be easy to predict.
With a quarter century of practice as a Maryland family law attorney, Attorney Bricker knows how Maryland judges will resolve child support disputes. For honest advice and experienced representation in a child support matter, call the Law Offices of Jules Bricker, P.A. at 301-977-9140.