Child support is a highly contested area of Family Law. If parents cannot resolve support by on their own or through mediation, the case will need to be decided by a family court judge. Both custodial and noncustodial parents retain the right to request that the court modify child support orders at any time, so long as there has been a significant change in circumstances.
For help calculating support, settling a dispute, or requesting a modification of support, call a child support attorney at Hecht & Associates to set up a consultation: 301-587-2099.
How Do the Courts Calculate Child Support?
The law requires that all parents provide the financial support for their minor children. Child support amounts are largely statutory, that is, there is a set, state-mandated formula that attorneys and courts use to calculate the amount of appropriate child support in any given case. Maryland and Washington D.C. have a detailed child support guideline worksheet that parents must complete in order to determine support payments. Judges rarely deviate from these figures.
Factors such as each parent’s income and the amount of time the child spends with each parent can affect the amount of support. The law expects both parents to contribute to the children’s needs in proportion to their respective income. For instance, if the father makes 85 percent of the income and the mother makes 15 percent, the father will most likely be responsible for paying 85 percent of the child’s basic needs, and the mother 15 percent.
Under What Circumstances Might Someone be Able to Modify a Support Order?
Judges will consider modifying the support if there has been a significant change in circumstances. The three types of circumstances that may merit a support modification are:
- Change in custody arrangements – If primary custody changes from one parent to the other or the courts alter the visitation schedule significantly, support may be adjusted accordingly.
- Change in income – Likewise, if one parent loses his or her job, becomes disabled, gets a large raise at work, is sentenced to jail time, or has a major increase or decrease in business profit, a modification may be in order.
- Change in number of dependents – Lastly, if the paying spouse has another child, remarries and adopts his or her stepchildren, or otherwise has a change in the number of dependents, it will affect his or her disposable income. This circumstance may also merit a modification.
What are Some Common Types of Child Support Disputes?
The most common type of dispute regarding child support arises when one parent purposely becomes unemployed or underemployed to escape child support responsibilities.
It is a shame when the paying parent tries to avoid his or her financial duties to their children; It is not only unethical (and illegal if he or she lies on his financial affidavit or under oath), but the ones who suffer most are the children involved who will not have the support they need and deserve. If the payee spouse provides proof that the paying spouse is “voluntarily impoverished,” the court might impute income to the paying spouse, and order him or her to pay an appropriate amount.
Another common dispute that often arises involves remarriages. Can your new spouse’s income affect your child support order with your ex? This is a very complicated area of family law. In most cases, the judge will not consider income from a subsequent marriage when calculating support. The only time it might be a pertinent factor is if that new spouse is paying all the parent’s bills, in which case the courts may consider those financial contributions when determining or modifying support.
How Do I Modify a Child Support Order?
Parents must submit all child support modifications—even those on which both parents agree—to the court and a judge must approve them. Verbal agreements to change support are not sufficient.
To modify an order, your lawyer will need to petition the court for a hearing. In the motion, you can request that the court review your case, submit your financial information, and explain why a modification is in order. The judge will then hear the case and make a determination accordingly.
What is my First Step to Settling a Child Support Dispute?
If you have an issue with your child support order or want to make modifications, your first step is to review your case with a family law attorney and determine how to best move forward.
For a lawyer who handles all types of divorce, custody, and support issues in Maryland and Washington, D.C., contact Hecht & Associates today at 301-587-2099 for a consultation.