Parents always have the obligation to provide for their children, so child support is a key issue regardless of whether they are in an intact relationship. However, beyond this fundamental principle of family law, many parents are not familiar with how child support works in Maryland. Confusion and misconceptions about which can lead to heated disputes as parents try to figure out their rights and responsibilities. In the meantime, the best interests of the child are not being served as the financial constraints affect his or her basic needs.
Given the complexities of the Maryland statutes, case precedent, and court procedural rules, it is understandable if you do not have a keen grasp of your rights and responsibilities. Therefore, you should trust a Bethesda, MD child support lawyer to protect your interests and guide you through the court process. You might also benefit from reviewing some important facts about child support that every parent should know.
- You need a court order to trigger child support obligations. Though the duty to support children arises through operation of law, there is nothing automatic about the legal process. A parent seeking financial support from the other must have an order signed by a judge or government agency. Often, the order will be entered in connection with divorce proceedings, either while the case is pending, as part of the final decree, or both. Note that an oral promise or written agreement is not enough to enforce the child support obligation, unless a judge approves the arrangement and includes it in a signed order.
- Unmarried parents must first establish paternity. Aside from divorce, child support obligations may also arise from a paternity case. Maryland parentage laws provide two ways for establishing paternity:
- Both parents can sign an Affidavit of Parentage that identifies mother and father.
- Either parent can file a petition to establish paternity, which typically involves a court hearing. Genetic testing is the primary evidence in these cases.
- There is a formula for determining child support in Maryland. The core concept behind child support is ensuring the child lives in the same financial lifestyle as if the parents lived under the same roof. The specific Maryland child support guidelines use each parent’s income as a starting off point, but additional factors include:
- Imputed income for a parent who is unemployed;
- Expenses for the child, such as health insurance, childcare, and extraordinary medical costs; and,
- The number of children being supported.
- A court can depart from Maryland child support guidelines. If the combined income of both parents exceeds a certain amount, a judge is allowed to use discretion in determining the basic child support obligation. The focus is on the needs of the child and the parents’ abilities to financially meet them.
- Parents can agree on child support. While they cannot contract away their obligations, parents are allowed to compromise on child support. This strategy is common in cases where the parties can include child support as part of a settlement agreement. You avoid litigation, saving time and money, by executing a child support agreement that serves the best interests of the child.
Contact a Maryland Child Support Attorney for Additional Details
This information should help you gain perspective on the basics of child support in Maryland, but it is no substitute for the custom-tailored advice and counsel a knowledgeable lawyer can provide. For more information on how The McKeon Law Firm can assist with child support issues, please contact our Gaithersburg or Bethesda, MD offices today. You can set up a consultation by calling 301-417-9222 or 202-742-1800.