In an ideal world, the child support system would be easy to navigate and automatic. It would be wonderful if child support payments were automatically adjusted every year based off of cost of living and income changes….but unfortunately “automatic adjustments” do not exist for child support. Child support can be determined both as a result of a legal separation or divorce, or independently, as its own legal form of action. No two families are alike, so the formulas and algorithms had to take into account a huge amount of information.
For example (and this is just a partial list):
- Is there a formal, court-ordered custody and visitation schedule in place?
- Is there any sort of informal arrangement for visitation?
- Who has physical custody and for what percentage of the time?
- What percentage of time does the non-custodial parent have overnights with the children?
- How many children are involved?
- Does either parent pay support for children from a previous relationship?
- How much money does each parent earn?
- Who pays for medical insurance, dental, vision, and healthcare?
- Do any of the children have any special needs, like chronic disabilities or medical conditions that require specialist medical treatment and/or therapy?
- Who pays for daycare (or private schools)?
- Who pays transportation costs for visitations?
For more details on Maryland Child Support Law, please read our blog with information and frequently asked questions here.
What if I was happy with the amount I originally received as child support, but now circumstances have changed? Am I out of luck?
Good news! Certain circumstances allow you to file for a modification of child support! For instance, if your child support payments are set up through the Maryland Support Administration, you can request a modification every three years or if there has been a material change in circumstances. The Maryland DHS website lists the following examples as changes in circumstances that can prompt modification:
- A significant change in income
- Changes in work-related day care costs
- Changes in health care costs
- Changes in custody
- Change in the financial needs of the child
If any of those situations apply to you, You should file the motion in the circuit court that issued the child support order. Bear in mind that terms like “significant change” can often have complex legal-based definitions, and that filing a petition may require the assistance of legal counsel. There are forms for filing for a modification of child support available online, but those forms are not as specifically tailored to your circumstances as a formal motion filed by a competent attorney would be.
First of all, If your payment does not go through the Maryland Support Administration, you have three choices:
- You can obtain the services of an attorney to handle your case.
- You can go to the child support office in your county.
- You can file the CCDR-6 form and Financial Statement yourself (although not if you are receiving public assistance or welfare — in these cases, you must proceed through your county’s child support office).
Because the COVID-19 pandemic affected so many families financially, the State of Maryland released a 14-page Modification Packet especially tailored to this circumstance. It includes:
- A 6-page modification review questionnaire
- A notice of legal representation
- A 2-page financial statement (signed under penalty of perjury)
- A 2 page listing of local Child Support Offices so you will know where to submit the rest of the packet
- A listing of local self-help centers and non-profit legal services providers
One thing to keep in mind is the fact that unlike an attorney, the local child support office does not work specifically for you. It is possible that if you file to increase child support, the office may find that a decrease is appropriate, and thus, may independently file for a decrease (and vice versa).
What counts as a “significant” change that would warrant an increase in child support?
You may have lost your job or had your hours reduced. This could be for any reason, not just because of COVID. However, the unemployment or reduction in hours must be involuntary. In other words, you cannot simply quit your job and ask for more money from your ex as a result. Doing so would is considered “voluntary impoverishment”—i.e., deliberately choosing a lack of income. Also, even if you are not receiving unemployment (but had lost your job or had your hours reduced involuntarily), calculations may be based on your “earnings potential,” i.e,, the amount you used to make before you were unemployed.
- Your ex may have a new job that you believe pays significantly more than before. Generally, a change of 25% or more would require changing the support order.
- Your child (or children) may have unexpected medical expenses by becoming sick or disabled. Additionally, if a disabled child reaches the age of majority, but is still unable to support themselves due to their disability, parents still have a duty to provide food, shelter, care, and clothing.
- Your ex may have more money as a result of a variety of situations. For example, if they were living with someone else who had children who needed support, but that is no longer the case.
- If your ex was paying child support for children from a previous relationship who have now turned 18 or graduated from high school, he or she will now have more money available to enter into the equation when it comes to the children you both share. Bear in mind that in Maryland, if the child is 18, but still enrolled in high school, your child is still entitled to child support. The child support statute has a full list of factors that affect eligibility—it can be found here.
- Your children may simply need more financial support because they are growing older and incurring more expenses.
You may believe that a verbal agreement between you and your ex-partner is sufficient, but it is not. You should always have things in writing – and that writing should be verified by court order. A simple written contract signed by both parents is not enough—you need to make sure that every i is dotted and ever t is crossed—legally speaking.
Maryland’s child support law can be incredibly intricate and confusing. Without proper representation, things can go wrong very quickly, which is the last thing you want for your children.
In order for everyone to get the best outcome when it comes to modifying child support, working with a lawyer who is well versed in Maryland child support law — someone who knows the precedent — is crucial.
Call us at 410-356-4455 to learn more and protect your rights throughout the entire child support modification process. Or contact us online.