Child Support is Mandatory

Child support is mandatory in Annapolis, Maryland family law.  The child support guidelines provide a presumptive amount from which it is hard to vary.
When most folks think of divorce they immediately think of MONEY. How much is this going to cost me? Will I get alimony? How much child support will I be required to pay? How much am I going to have to pay in attorneys’ fees? Can I get my spouse to contribute to my counsel fees?

It is understandable that anyone facing a divorce will consider its financial consequences. It is not hyperbole to say that divorce can devastate a family financially and that doesn’t even consider the emotional costs. Similarly, it makes sense that parties would seek to manage their costs by trading certain assets for others and bargaining away some rights in order to get other rights. Most of the time this “horse trading” is perfectly legitimate with one notable exception, which is the subject of this week’s question.

Despite what I have written above, parties still find ways to reduce child support. For example, some parents agree to have child support calculated on a “shared custody” basis, even though they know that the child will primarily be in one parent’s care so that the child support owed by the non-custodial parent is less than it otherwise would be. Some parents will enter into settlement agreements in which one parent is charged with paying for some child-related expense that is not included in the child support calculation (i.e. transportation costs of the minor child, private school tuition, extracurricular activities, summer camps) as a means of justifying a downward deviation from the child support guidelines. There is nothing inherently wrong with this practice so long as the adjustment in support still serves the “best interests of the child.”

Although highly motivated parties can find creative workarounds in the Maryland Child Support Guidelines, the guidelines and the minimum support principles that it imposes on each parent serves a useful function. It reinforces the notion that a child deserves the care and support of each of its parents regardless of how modest or substantial a child’s parent’s financial means may be.

What Can Happen to a Parent Who is Late on Child Support?

When a Maryland parent responsible for paying child support fails to fulfill his or her payment obligations, the Maryland Child Support Enforcement Administration can take action. The way the administration acts, though, is likely to differ depending on the situation. For example, if the administration sees that the parent is financially unable to meet the obligations, it will work with the parent to try and overcome the challenges. On the other hand, if the administration finds that the parent is purposefully avoiding payments in spite of having the financial capacity to pay, it will aggressively pursue legal claims against the parent.

Different laws provide the CSEA with a variety of tools it can employ in cases where child support payments are overdue. For one, federal and state laws allow the CSEA to intercept and obtain the federal income tax refunds of delinquent child support payers who owe $500 or more. The late-paying parent will receive a notice 30 days prior to the tax refund’s interception. Meanwhile, the person who allegedly owes money will have the right to request that an investigation be carried out by his or her local child support agency prior to the interception taking place. Similarly, the Maryland CSEA can intercept state income tax refunds for payers who are behind by $150 or more.

In other cases, the CSEA has the right to deny the issuance of passports to those who are behind on child support by $2,500 or more. Once the overdue amount is paid, the individual will have his or her passport suspension removed. Similarly, driver’s licenses can be suspended if a parent is overdue by as few as 60 days. After the overdue amount is paid, the parent will have his or her driving privileges reinstated. A wide variety of other means are also available to the CSEA for child support enforcement purposes, such as wage withholding, administrative liens on real estate property, asset seizure, lottery winnings interception, and others.

When a Maryland resident is late paying his or her child support, serious legal consequences can result. Parents who are owed support do not have to sit idly by and hope that one day they will be paid. Legal assistance is available to remedy the situation. Whether one is owed or owes child support money, knowing one’s legal options is always important.

Source: Maryland Department of Human Resources, “Child Support Enforcement Tools” Aug. 25, 2014

Jailed Father Who Overpaid Child Support Finally Released

A father, who was imprisoned in a southwest state after technically overpaying his child support, has been released. The man’s lawyer announced that he secured his release on July 2 during a standard jail review hearing. Allegedly, the man was imprisoned because he was behind on his child support payments — due to no fault of his own — because his employer made a clerical error. While this situation is indeed rare, it is not uncommon for parents in Maryland or elsewhere to find themselves in trouble with the law for failing to pay their child support on time.

When the man, in this case, discovered the error, he immediately paid the child support debt he owed and then some. In fact, he paid an extra thousand dollars while catching up on the overdue amount. However, this was not enough for the state court judge who ruled him to be in contempt of court anyway. He was subsequently sentenced to jail.

The man’s lawyer says that the issue lies with a new law that was enacted in June of last year. The law invalidated protections that used to help Texas parents who fell behind on their child support payments. The new and harsher legislation means that deadbeat parents, in addition to parents who are legitimately experiencing temporary financial problems, are treated the same. Fortunately, the father was ultimately released when he was able to show that he was paid in full on child support during his jail review hearing.

Numerous Maryland parents find themselves in trouble with the law if they get behind on child support payments. However, it is important for parents to remember that uncontrollable financial circumstances do not mean that they are “deadbeats.” Also, parents experiencing financial problems may wish to file a legal petition to have their child support obligations reduced to reflect their new economic standing in order to avoid the potential for legal troubles later on down the line.

Source: Uptown Magazine, “Father Freed after Serving Time for Overpayment of Child Support” Dayne Starr, Jul. 29, 2014

Facebook Used as Evidence in Deadbeat Parent Child Support Cases

These days, Facebook has become a big part of the lives of Maryland residents and others all over the nation. Evidence gleaned from social media websites is even being used to incriminate people. Take the issue of child support, for example. Authorities in different parts of the United States are using evidence from Facebook brags to convict men and woman who have failed to pay their child support.

In one Midwestern case, authorities contacted a man after he failed to meet the court-ordered child support obligation regarding his cancer-ridden son. Allegedly, the man was boasting on Facebook about his financial success and other exorbitant entertainment expenditures. In another child support case, a woman was accused of buying plastic surgery instead of paying her child support. Yet another man was accused of buying an expensive music studio while he failed to meet his child support obligations.

Parents who cannot afford to pay their child support in Maryland can file a petition with the court to have their child support reduced. However, parents who are not paying out of choice can be arrested and held accountable under the law. In the case of a parent who is flaunting his or her financial success on Facebook, that evidence can and will likely be used against them him or her in court.

Maryland courts strive to distinguish between a deadbeat mother or father and an impoverished one, and they tend to hold the deadbeat ones accountable wherever possible. As such, parents who believe that their ex-spouses are purposefully neglecting their child support obligations may have strong cases to recoup the child support they are owed, in addition to legal fees and other litigation costs.

Source:, “Parents not paying child support get busted because of Facebook posts” Jul. 18, 2014

Maryland Parents Late on Child Support Could be Incarcerated

Single fathers and mothers in Maryland struggle to pay their child support obligations on time, and most are capable of doing so. However, in some cases, financial troubles may cause a parent to be unable to pay the child support that he or she owes. In such situations, it is vital that parents know they could be arrested and jailed as a result of getting behind.

Indeed, in one southern state, authorities recently took to the streets to arrest dozens of individuals who were late on paying child support. A total of 40 parents were taken into custody as a part of the law enforcement operation, which is referred to as Operation Take Care. Police in the county that was conducting the operation says they have a total of 575 more arrest warrants on file for child support violations and plan to continue serving the warrants and arresting more parents.

In addition to the arrests, a large number of allegedly delinquent mothers and fathers have come forward voluntarily to avoid being taken into custody and to make payment arrangements for the child support they owe. Authorities are hoping that even more parents come forward. However, they will continue to locate late-paying parents and serve arrest warrants when and where necessary.

Due to the threat of temporary incarceration and other serious legal consequences, Maryland parents late on child support will want to address the matter as quickly as possible. Fortunately, state family courts are well aware of the fact that economic conditions can change in an instant. A parent may require an adjustment to lower his or her child’s support obligations to reflect the parent’s new economic reality. Nevertheless, parents must act quickly if they want to apply for a child support modification. Otherwise, they face the threat of arrest and other consequences after getting behind.

Source: KPRC, “Dozens arrested in child support roundup,” June 28, 2014

Singer Required to Pay More in Monthly Child Support

The singer and actor, Marc Anthony, has been ordered to pay more money in child support to his ex-wife, Dayanara Torres, for the two children they had together. The increase in the singer’s child support obligation comes after Torres filed for an increase on the basis of changes in her lifestyle and her need to employ a housekeeper and nanny.

In Marc Anthony’s case, a judge ruled that he shall increase his monthly child support payments, which were formerly $14,400, up to $26,800. In other words, the singer is now paying double what he was previously. In the court papers that his ex-wife filed, she further claimed that Anthony had been neglecting his children. She said that he only spent 35 days with them in 2013.

Anthony disagreed with his ex-wife’s claims and disputed them in court. He was able to show that in 2012 he had spent a total of 71 days with his children. Also, even though the doubling of his child support payments may seem extreme, the result was better for Anthony than what his ex-wife was originally seeking. Believe it or not, the original court papers she filed requested that his monthly child support be increased to $123,426 every month.

A change in life circumstances — either for the spouse who is receiving child support or for the spouse who is paying child support – may be an acceptable basis for requesting a change in child support amounts. Indeed, in some cases, a Maryland resident could lose his or her job and/or suffer a financial catastrophe that makes it impossible to pay his or her current level of child support. In other cases, better financial circumstances could result in an ex-spouse being required to pay more each month.

Source: New York Daily News, “Marc Anthony ordered to pay $26,000 a month in child support to ex-wife Dayanara Torres” Margaret Eby, Jun. 13, 2014

Halle Barry Reaches Child Support Agreement with Gabriel Aubry

A judge recently granted approval for a child support settlement between Halle Berry and Gabriel Aubry, her ex-boyfriend. The settlement governs the amount of child support Berry will pay to Aubry for living expenses relating to their child, a 6-year-old girl.

A Superior Court judge approved the settlement at the end of May. The settlement says that Berry must make monthly payments of $16,000 (which add up to close to $200,000 annually) for their daughter’s support. The Hollywood star will also provide money for educational tuition; however, she and Aubry will pay equal shares for their child’s medical care.

As is the case with many family law cases in Maryland, the settlement agreement in this Los Angeles case did not stop with child support. Berry also agreed to pay retroactively — $115,000 in back child support payments. Aubry will further receive $300,000 from Berry to pay for the attorneys’ fees he expended during the ex-couples child custody battle. The ex-couple had entered into a child custody dispute previously. Also, a judge’s order in 2012 prevented the actress from taking her daughter to live with her in France.

This case is a prime example of how men are not always the ones who are responsible for child support payments. Indeed, in some Maryland cases, the mother is required to pay child support to the father. Fathers who feel they are owed child support may wish to investigate the possibility of pursuing legal action, either to enforce a previous child support decree or to establish their right to receive such financial assistance to help with the rearing of their children in the future.

Source: The Huffington Post, “Halle Berry, Gabriel Aubry Settle Child Support, Actress To Pay Ex $16,000 A Month” No author given, Jun. 10, 2014

Withholding Visitation if No Child Support is Paid in Maryland

May Visitation or access be withheld from a non-custodial parent if that parent fails to pay child support in Maryland?

No, not under Maryland law.  The obligation to pay child support is separate and distinct from a parent’s right to visitation and access with one’s child.  If there is an order to pay child support, the custodial parent can file an action in cointempt to force the noncustodial parent to pay child support.  Hoiwever, the custodial parent may subject himself or herself to a contempt action of his or her own if he or she refuses to abide by the terms of an agreed upon or court ordered access schedule.

It is tempting when one parent is refusing to honor his or her child-related obligations for the other to enegage in “self help” and hold  back visitation and access from the delinquent parent to force that parent’s compliance with the Court Order.  Unfortunately, that strategy may end up backfiring on the parent who takes the action.

Sometimes, just the limited intervention of your Annapolis, Maryland family law attorney to remind the other party of the court ordered obligations and the legal consequences of contempt of court is enough to resolve the conflict.

If the other party is particularly stubborn, litigation may be unavoidable, but at least the compliant parent will have “clean hands” and will not be facing any legal action by having denied court ordered visitation.

I Am Not Going To Pay Child Support

“I am going to jail before I pay her child support and alimony.”  we often hear out clients say.  We always chuckle to ourselves because it is obvious that the people who say that have never been to jail and have no idea what it is like in there.    We once had a professional client with a huge income in a very high conflict case.  He swore he would go to jail before he paid child support.  That is what happened when he refused to pay.  I passed him that day walking on the shoulder of the road coming away from the Detention Center after his Dad had wired the money to get him out of jail.

Your Maryland attorney can work with you in determining what to do about child support.  If child support is in a court order or an agreement that is incorporated in a Court Order, failing to pay child support is contempt of the court order.  The ultimate penalty in civil contempt is after the court sets an amount of money that must be paid, jail is ordered if it is not paid.

Jail is not the only consequence.  If the support is overdue by more than sixty days, your driver’s license will be forfeited.  You could lose your professional license.  Your income tax refund could be intercepted and delivered to your former spouse to pay back support.   If your former spouse asks to have a Judgment entered against you for past-due support. your bank accounts could be attached.  Your car and other assets could be attached and sold.  A judgment is a lien against any real estate you own.

The moral of the story is:  “Pay your child support.”

Parents Could Receive Child Support Amnesty, Avoid Jail

Maryland’s neighboring state of New Jersey wants its parents to commit to “Do the Right Thing for Your Kids.” That is why the state’s office of Child Support Services is offering a get-out-of-jail-free opportunity for parents who are in arrears for their child support payments. Parents who are facing possible arrest for their overdue amounts could be eligible for payment restructuring under the amnesty effort.

Those parents who are interested in pursuing child support modifications may do so through the first weekend in May. If they reach an agreement for a payment plan, the parents can have their arrest warrants expunged. Even those parents who are unable to agree to a proposed payment plan may be temporarily exempted from arrest.

The last time such a program was offered in the state was 10 years ago. Parents were able to avoid jail time through a similar initiative that occurred in 2004. State authorities say that the program is only administered infrequently because they do not want to give parents the impression that child support is an optional commitment. However, there are some people who have fallen on hard times and could pay an even higher price for their failure to pay child support. Those parents deserve a second chance; luckily, the state of New Jersey is reaching out to provide needed assistance.

Although parents who find themselves making delinquent child support payments are unfairly characterized as “deadbeats,” there are a variety of reasons for noncompliance with child support. In many cases, parents fall behind on their weekly or monthly bills, and they are unsure how to break out of the financial mire. Those well-intentioned parents deserve the chance to make good on their overdue child support and demonstrate their commitment to their children, no matter their economic struggles.

Source:, “NJ offering child-support amnesty” Colleen Diskin, Apr. 18, 2014