IRAs and child support calculations

 Income for purposes of calculating child support pursuant to the Maryland Child Support Guidelines is defined by the Family Law Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland as actual income. This includes, but is not limited to, salary, wages, pension income, social security benefits and disability insurance benefits.

 Withdrawals from one’s IRA accounts are also deemed to be income to a party pursuant to the Family Law Article as they are taxable income. However, issues have arisen as to whether the amount in a payor’s IRA can be deemed a potential source of income for the payor. Along with that comes the question that if the payor chooses not to take any withdrawals from this account, would that refusal lead a court to believe that the payor is purposefully diminishing his income in order to pay a lower amount of child support. If the Court deemed this to be true, then the income (annuitized) could potentially be imputed to the payor for child support purposes.

There is no definitive answer to the above issue. Courts in other jurisdictions have been reluctant to impute annuitized IRA income to the payor that were not actually made, especially those withdrawals that would trigger an early withdrawal penalty. However, an argument can be made that this income could be imputed to payors who have reached the age in which penalty-free withdrawals are permissible, or if the payor has no other available income and the child is in need (best interest of the child).

 Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC is an Annapolis-based family law firm serving clients throughout the state of Maryland. If you have a child support-related issue, please contact our firm to reserve a consultation time at our office.

Co-Parenting: The Transition from Spouses to Former Spouses

co-parentingCo-Parenting is one of the biggest concerns parents have when going through a divorce and/or separation is how the transition will affect their children. Adjusting to a new schedule and routine is hard on children, and parents should strive to ease as much stress on their children as they can.

A key way of achieving this is to develop a strong and supportive co-parenting relationship with your former spouse. This may not always be easy at first; however, accomplishing same will greatly ease the transition to your new relationship for your children.

It is important to separate the emotions that led to your divorce from the new co-parenting relationship you are forming with your former spouse. Harboring resentments and dredging up past events/feelings will only serve to negatively effect your communication with your former spouse. Your children should be your top priority and holding onto the past does not help to foster a positive environment for them.

No relationship is perfect and certainly disagreements will develop between you and your former spouse despite your best efforts to avoid them. It is helpful to take a step back before engaging in the disagreement to determine if there is a way it can be resolved without further conflict. If the disagreement cannot be resolved, seek outside support to help aid in resolving the conflict. A helpful resource could be co-parenting classes.

Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC. is an Annapolis-based family law firm serving clients throughout the state of Maryland. If you and your spouse are considering a divorce, please contact our firm to reserve a consultation time at our office.

Joint Custody and Sole Custody, what is the difference?

Many have heard the terms “sole custody” and “joint custody”; however often times the meanings and implications of same are misunderstood. Joint custodial arrangements (physical and legal) are certainly more common than sole arrangements and are in most instances preferred by the Courts. In these arrangements, the parties share time with the children and have to consult with one another when making decisions regarding the children. However, a parent may be able to obtain sole custody dependent upon the particular details of their specific situation.

 

Sole custody means that one parent has exclusive legal and primary custody rights with respect to their minor child or children. The minor child or children primarily reside with the parent with sole physical custody, and that parent does not have to consult the other when making decisions for the children as they have sole legal custody.  A parent usually obtains sole legal and physical custody if the other parent is deemed to be unfit, which sometimes occurs in cases of drug or child abuse. Though a parent may have sole custody, this does not mean, and it is rarely the case, that the other parent does not have visitation rights with the minor child or children.

 

Peters & Clark, P.A. is an Annapolis-based family law firm serving clients throughout the state of Maryland. If you are experiencing custodial issues with your partner regarding your children, please contact our firm to reserve a consultation time at our office

Does Remarriage Affect My Child Support?

Does Remarriage Affect My Child Support?During the process of your divorce, any issues regarding child support were decided in your divorce decree, a court-ordered document. However, if your ex-spouse remarries into an improved financial situation, are you still responsible for the same amount of child support?

This is a good question. With spousal support, a change in financial circumstances for either spouse can trigger a modification order. However, this isn’t the case with child support. The ultimate goal of child support is to allow both parents to provide equitably for their child. Remarriage typically will not change child support payments, either for the person paying them or for the person receiving them. Even when parents remarry, their responsibility to their children does not change.

Unless a court is provided with significant financial information that speaks to the need for a change, child support orders remain effective until the children become legal adults – no matter the relationship status of their parents. Therefore, while it is potentially possible that your child could receive additional support if your ex-spouse remarries, the more likely response is “no.”

Modifications to child support orders

Child support only factors in the parent’s income, not a new spouse. It doesn’t count who else contributes to the household or how much money they make – the parent’s income is the only factor.

That being said, if you bring in more money that significantly increases your personal income by at least 25%, then your ex-spouse may want to modify the child support agreement. (The same is true if the positions are reversed.) A modification can be made if there has been a “material change in circumstances” for that parent or the child. Other reasons why a child support order may be modified, either to increase or decrease the amount paid, include:

  • Additional expenses required for a child’s healthcare, such as those associated with a long-term illness or severe injury.
  • Significant loss of income of the paying parent, such as the loss of a job.
  • One parent being sentenced to jail or prison.

If you are paying or receiving child support and are planning on remarrying, talk to the attorneys at Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC. We’ll work to ensure your financial interests are protected. For a consultation at our Annapolis office, please call 410.921.2422 or fill out our contact form.

 

 

 

 

Establishing Paternity in Maryland for a Child Born Out of Wedlock

Establishing Paternity in Maryland for a Child Born Out of WedlockA child born to a non-married couple is entitled to support from both parents. Establishing paternity in Maryland for a child born out of wedlock is an important step to ensure that your child spends time with both of his or her parents, and that both parents contribute financially to the child’s upbringing.

Benefits of establishing paternity

Maryland is one of 11 states that have adopted the Uniform Parentage Act, which modernizes the law for determining the parents of children. An important feature of this law is that it shuns the term “illegitimate” and instead uses the phrase, “child with no presumed father.” The UPA and a series of U.S. Supreme Court decisions have invalidated laws that put children born out-of-wedlock at a disadvantage.

The People’s Law Library of Maryland lists the following benefits of establishing paternity:

  • Establishes a relationship between the father and child, and gives the child a sense of identity.
  • Allows the father’s name to be listed on the child’s birth certificate.
  • Avoids the need to go to court.
  • Gives the father custody rights, visitation and to be consulted about adoption.
  • Gives the child the right to benefits from the father such as financial support, inheritance, social security, veteran’s benefits, and life and health insurance.
  • Makes it easier for the child to learn the father’s medical history, and benefit from the father’s health insurance.

Establishing paternity in Maryland

You can establish paternity in two different ways under Maryland law. The first option is through an Affidavit of Parentage form and the second option is through a court order. MD Code Family Law §5–1028. A father may complete an Affidavit of Parentage while the mother and baby are still in the hospital, allowing the dad’s name to appear on the child’s birth certificate. If you complete the form after leaving the hospital, both parents must sign the form in the presence of a Notary Public. Forms are available through the Maryland Department of Health & Mental Hygiene/Division of Vital Records and you can establish paternity using this process up until the child’s 18th birthday.

You may consult with a family law attorney before signing this form, and if you are not certain that you are the biological father of the child, do not sign the form.

Refusing to complete an Affidavit of Parentage does not also absolve a father from fulfilling his obligation to help provide financial support for his child as paternity can be established by the court through genetic testing. If the father refuses to submit to a genetic test, the court can order him to take the test. Both parents will be required to take the test, which only requires a swab of the inside of the cheek to gather a sample of saliva that will be used for DNA analysis.

The state of Maryland makes it abundantly simple for a father to step up and assert his paternity and enjoy the rights and responsibilities that come with fatherhood. The child will benefit from the sense of knowing who they are and establishing a bond with both parents.

A Maryland family law attorney from the law firm of Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC, can be helpful if you are interested in establishing paternity and working out custody arrangements so that you can spend time with your child.

If you require the services of a Maryland family law attorney with your paternity case, we are here to help. When you work with the family law attorneys at Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, P.A., you enjoy the benefits of their more than 30 years of combined legal experience working on your behalf. Please take a moment now to contact us at 410.921.2422 to reserve a consultation today at our Annapolis-based office to discuss your case.

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In Maryland, When Does Your Child Support Obligation End?

In Maryland, When Does Your Child Support Obligation End?According to Maryland law, a parent’s child support obligation ends at age 18 if the child has graduated from high school, or age 19 if the child is still enrolled in high school. Parents are not obligated by law to pay for post-secondary education costs unless both parents have agreed to do so in a marital settlement agreement.

If your child has recently celebrated their 18th birthday and you would like to terminate your child support payments, you should consult with a Maryland family law attorney who can help you with this process. If you have signed a marital settlement agreement at the time of your divorce, you want to make sure that you are clear on the terms.

If you are paying child support for more than one child, and one of the children turns 18 and graduates from high school, then your obligation to pay support for the older child will end, but you will continue to owe support for the younger children. Your Maryland family law attorney can also help you prepare a petition to request that the court establish a new payment amount now that one of the children is on their own.

If your child leaves home and joins the military before they turn 18, if they get married, or simply move out on their own, then you may no longer be obligated to support them financially. You would be required to petition the court to end your child support payments because the child has become emancipated.

Special circumstances

There are circumstances under which a parent might still be obligated to support their child beyond the age of 19. If the child suffers from physical or mental disabilities and is unable to support themselves, your obligation to support them financially may continue on for the remainder of the child’s life.

The family law attorneys at Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, P.A., have more than 30 years of combined experience representing countless families like yours resolve their child support challenges throughout Maryland. Please contact us to reserve a consultation today at our Annapolis-based office.

 

What You Should Know about Divorce Decree Modifications

 

Divorce Decree Modifications in Annapolis

Whether your divorce was finalized with an agreement or by a court order, you have options after you sign. Divorce modification is more common than most people realize, and can be a relatively painless process with the help of an experienced attorney.

You may wish to modify your divorce for any number of reasons; your life is not static, and a document you agreed to in the past may become less and less relevant to you as time goes by. Whatever the reasons, the following are the four most common types of modifications after a divorce is finalized:

  1. Child support agreements. With children in the picture, things can change very quickly. A modification to a child support agreement will be necessary, for example, when your minor child reaches the age of majority. This necessitates a formal filing with the court to eliminate child support for the child who is no longer a minor.
  2. Child custody agreements. Loss of a job, promotions, relocations, or even changes in health can affect how a parent is physically and emotionally able to care for a child. A parent who develops a health condition or disease which requires frequent hospital stays or procedures like dialysis may be too tired or weak to offer his or her full parental attention. On the other hand, a parent whose job status has changed may now be offered a more set schedule or different hours, allowing him or her to spend more time with the children than the original order accounted for. With their frequent relocations, active duty military parents can particularly benefit from modifications to a custody agreement, as their physical location may change more often than that of civilian parents.
  3. Alimony agreements. If you are paying alimony, a change in your income or loss of a job can require changes to make sure you do not violate the terms of the agreement and face penalties.

Amending court documents can be complicated, and requires a thorough knowledge of Maryland procedures. If your circumstances have changed recently for any reason, you may benefit from amending your divorce decree. You can make changes to better your life; we can help.

The lawyers at Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC have the skills and experience necessary to successfully modify any family law document, and can thoroughly and expediently aid you. Whether your modification request is met amicably or will require amending a court order, you can count on our experienced attorneys to provide you unparalleled assistance. Please contact us to reserve a consultation at our Annapolis office location.

Digging Deeper into FAQs About Maryland Child Support

It’s been a few months since we focused attention on the issue of child support. In a post back in November, we sought to provide some insight on some of the frequently asked questions about this important facet of family law.

Much of what that post focused on had to do with who may be eligible for child support and the state and local government offices in Anne Arundel County positioned to help make sure that support is fulfilled smoothly and effectively. But in some instances, payers may be reluctant to meet their obligations and enforcement measures are needed.

It may be that an attorney’s help is required. When that’s the case, you want to be sure you are confident that your advocate has solid experience with collection processes and the various tools that are available to ensure that children get the financial support they need for their well-being. And what might they be? Here’s a list as provided by Maryland’s Child Support Enforcement Administration.

  • Interception of federal or state tax refunds: This applies if an obligated payer is behind. State refunds can be pursued if the arrears are $150 or more. Federal refunds may be collected if the amount is $500 or more.
  • Passport blockage: An obligor who is $2,500 or more behind on child support could be blocked from leaving the country until the past-due amount is paid.
  • Driver’s license suspension: This leverage can be brought to bear if child support is 60 days or more overdue.
  • Professional license suspension: There are many careers that require state licensure; doctors, lawyers, nurses, even commercial truck drivers. Authorities may suspend a license until the all child support arrearages are paid.
  • Wage garnishment: This is typically done through a wage withholding order through a payer’s employer.

There are other methods available, including the possibility of having a payer incarcerated under a contempt order from the court. But that might not be the ideal solution if the objective is support recovery.

Frequently Asked Questions About Maryland Child Support

Maryland parents who are in the middle of a child support payment dispute may have a lot of questions about the state’s child support services program. Indeed, the state of Maryland offers a special child support services program to help parents enforce their child support decrees. So what are the most important questions you should have answers to?

Who can receive child support services? Generally speaking, any person who serves as custodian of a child under 18 is eligible for child support services. Biological parents, uncles, aunts, guardians, grandparents and other individuals taking care of a child could be eligible for the services. Some of these services include helping parents establish paternity, getting a child support court order and collecting unpaid child support. Other services include helping child support payers to sign up for the voluntary wage withholding program and helping parents ask for a modification to their child support amounts.

Parents may also want to know how they can find information about their pending child support matter. The Maryland Child Support Administration can be contacted by way of a toll-free number. Parents can speak with a representative from the Customer Care Center to answer their questions. If that representative cannot effectively answer the questions, then your child support services case specialist will review your case and follow through with appropriate action. Parents will receive an update within 20 days following such a request, but they will be contacted within two days if the matter is a priority.

Invariably, parents will also want to know how much child support they need to pay. Maryland uses a special income shares model when determining child support amounts to be paid. These guidelines factor in the incomes of each parent, child health insurance costs and the number of children and a wide variety of other factors to determine the amount of child support to be paid. For a complete picture relating to your child support issue, parents may wish to consult with a qualified Maryland family law attorney.

Source: Maryland Department of Human Resources, “Paying Support: Frequently Asked Questions” Nov. 04, 2014

What are The Must-Know Details of Child Support?

First of all, every parent needs to remember that — whether he or she is the payer or the recipient of child support — child support is the legal right of the child. In other words, child support is for the costs associated with a child’s upbringing, and it is not for the custodial parent who receives those funds. Knowing this can help parents stay level-headed and realistic not matter which side of the issue he or she happens to be on.

In the state of Maryland, most parents who are required to pay child support are non-custodial parents. They pay their support obligation to the parent who has custody. The court, usually calculates the amount of that support based on the paying parent’s level of income. If the parent earns more money, he or she will likely be required to pay more in child support.

Considering that around 50 percent of married couples end up divorcing these days, and considering that 25 percent of kids are born from non-married couples, the policing of child support decrees become an increasingly important service provided by the government. In the event that the paying parent falls behind on his or her child support obligations, the court (and the police) may at some point intervene. The state of Maryland takes child support seriously and it will aggressively pursue payments from any parent who has fallen behind, regardless the reason for one’s lateness.

For parents who are owed child support in Maryland, it may be necessary to seek the assistance of a family law attorney to get the money they and their children are owed. Similarly, a parent who has fallen behind on child support may wish to consult with a legal professional to find out what his or her rights are and how to resolve the problem.

Source: FindLaw, “Child support basics” Oct. 13, 2014

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