If a court order has been put in place for child support payments, you must take certain steps before a change or modification of that order can take place. A child support modification can be requested by either parent, but must be done so by filing a formal motion with the court. It cannot, and should not, be done as a separate out-of-court verbal agreement between the parents. Verbal agreements make it difficult to ensure that the parties have a complete understanding of the new arrangement. Any agreements made regarding the payment of child support should be reduced to writing to avoid any confusion moving forward.
Additionally, the court holds sole authority to change an existing order. If the parties reach an agreement on the amount and sign an agreement stating so, that information must be filed with the court and along with a request that the amount be modified per the agreement between the parties. The child support amount and payment terms remain the same until the court order is changed. Therefore, it is imperative that, even if an agreement stating something different is reached, the parent ordered to pay support should continue with the payments as ordered until the court officially changes the order reflecting the new amount. Otherwise, the parent paying support can be found owing arrearages for non-payment as ordered by the court.
When Should I Seek Child Support Modification?
Child support cannot and will not be changed unless there is a significant change in circumstances. The most common examples include:
(1) one parent becomes unemployed and no longer has income
(2) a parent changes jobs and is making at least 25% more or less
(3) the custody schedule has significantly changed.
Neither parent should make a request because they feel it is the right time, or they feel they should receive more or pay less. The court will only grant a request for child support modification if either parents’ situation has significantly changed from the time when the original order was put into effect.
This does not mean that you cannot ask for a review of the child support amount to ensure that the correct amount is still being paid. If your child support order is being handled through the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE), you have the right to request a review once every three years. The OCSE will review the child support order and determine whether or not the amount being paid should be altered. When conducting the review, the OCSE should seek information from both parties such as:
- Recent pay stubs (proving each parties current income)
- Information from the parent paying the health insurance costs for the child(ren) (oftentimes reflected on paystubs)
- Copies of invoices and receipts for any daycare expenses incurred, copies of invoices, and receipts for any extraordinary medical expenses incurred
All of this information is taken into account when determining child support.
Am I Still Responsible to Pay Child Support if I Lose My Job?
The answer is yes. All parents have a duty to support their children and are not excused from this obligation because they are out of work. It is important is that the court be immediately notified of changes in employment status so that a modification can be made based on the court’s opinion of earning capability. This is often referred to as imputing income. If the court feels that the parent has voluntarily impoverished themselves (meaning that the parent has made a conscious decision not to work or have enough money to pay their child support payment), then the court will make a recommendation to impute income to that parent and will set the child support payment accordingly.
Voluntary impoverishment and imputing income are complex legal arguments, and I recommend seeking the advice of an experienced family lawyer to assist you and inform you of the facts particular to your situation which can impact such a decision by the court.
If you have any questions regarding how to modify child support in Maryland, when to seek a modification, voluntary impoverishment, or imputed income, please contact me at 301-563-6685.
You May Also Be Interested In…
- What Happens If You Fail to Pay Child Support?
- When & How to Modify Child Support in Maryland
- Failure to Pay Child Support Can Result in a Driver’s License Suspension for Maryland Residents