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Requesting Modification of Child Support or Child Custody in the State of Maryland

on Jan 16, 2018 in Child Custody, Child Support

After a court has entered a Judgment of Divorce in the state of Maryland, it is possible to modify child support or child custody.  An individual in the state of Maryland is allowed to bring any legal motion without representation.  However, that does not mean it is a good idea.  Family law attorneys are expensive.  However, representing yourself in court is also expensive.  Even experienced family law attorneys retain a family law attorney to represent them in court.   Carefully consider a qualified, experienced family law attorney for modification matters.

Requesting a Change of Child Support

Every three years, either parent may ask the Child Support Enforcement office to review a child support order.  The modification request may result in either an increase or a decrease in the amount of a child support award.  Parents must request modifications in writing.  Parents keep a copy for themselves.  The request must include the basis for the request, be signed and dated, and include the child support case number, and any other identifying information.

Further, parents may file motions to modify an existing child support order at any time with the court.  The request is made before the circuit court judge that originally issued the child support order.  A party seeking modification of child support must bring a written motion before the court seeking modification.  Either the parent paying child support or the parent receiving child support may seek court modification of the order while the child is under the age of 18.  However, courts only grant modifications of child support under certain circumstances.

Change in Income

A significant change in income, either up or down, can justify a change in child support.  If the paying parent has a large increase in income, the court can order an increase in child support.  Also, if the paying parent experiences a significant reduction in income or loses a job, this may provide a basis for a reduction in child support.

Further, if the receiving parent has a significant increase or decrease in income, this can justify a change in child support payment.  

Voluntary Changes in Income

A parent cannot avoid a child support obligation by not making enough money intentionally.  This is called “Voluntary Impoverishment.”  

If a court finds a case of voluntary impoverishment, it may impute income to the party.  This means the court will act as if the parent has the appropriate level of income when calculating child support.  The court considers the physical condition, the education, the timing of employment changes, efforts of the party makes seeking appropriate employment, past work history, and other factors.

A jail or prison sentence is not considered voluntary unemployment.

Jail or Prison Sentence

Maryland modified the law for child support during a jail or prison sentence effective October 1, 2012.  This change applies only to individuals sentenced after that date.  Further, these changes only apply in cases where the payor is not on work release, cannot afford child support payments, and the incarceration is not voluntary and for the purpose of avoiding child support.

The parent will not owe child support for the time he or she is in jail.  However, the child support order still exists and payment must resume within 60 days of release.  If child support payments are made through the Office of Child Support Enforcement, that office will inform the receiving parent of the change.  The receiving parent may file an objection.

Needs of the Children

If the needs of the children change, such as an illness or disability for the child, this can result in an increase in the amount of child support.  Similarly, as the child ages, clothes, food and other items may also become more expensive.  More expenses justify requesting an increase in child support payment amount.  

Verbal Changes

A verbal agreement to change the amount of child support between the parties is risky and often leads to future problems.  Oral agreements may be inaccurate or vague.  Oral agreements may also be difficult to enforce in the future.  A court may find that the evidence does not support the claim that the parties agreed to a change in child support.

Modification of a child support order is subject to Maryland Family Law, section 12-104.

Change of Custody

Changing custody in the state of Maryland requires a showing that the change is in the best interests of the child.  Courts favor stability unless a party can show something in the child’s environment harms the well being of the child.  The party seeking a change must show that their home will be better than the home of the custodial parent.  The parent must also show there has been a substantial change in circumstances.  If a court determines the two homes are equal, custody will not change.

A parent may seek a change of custody when there are allegations of abuse.  These allegations of abuse may involve either the child or someone else in the home.  The party must show the court by clear and convincing evidence that the allegations are credible.

A conviction for a crime also provides a basis for a change of custody.  Convictions are easier to prove than allegations, but the party seeking a change must prove that the conviction or facts of the crime impact the well-being of the child. 

Finally, a temporary custody order is not a final order.  No change of circumstances must be shown to have temporary custody changed in the permanent order.

If You Are Seeking to Modify Support or Custody

If you are seeking to modify support or custody, contact our office for a consultation.  There are rules governing the process for reqesting modification of child support and child custody.  At Fait & DiLima, we focus exclusively on family law issues.  From divorce to child support to child custody, we have the experience and support staff you need.  We will answer your questions, and proceed in a manner best for you and your family.