On behalf of Shelly McKeon
When Maryland parents fail to fulfill their child support obligations, the state’s Child Support Administration has several enforcement options.
Whether they are separated, divorced or have never been married, both parents in Maryland are generally financially responsible for their children. To help ensure they fulfill this obligation, family law courts commonly order child support awards. While most parents comply willingly with these orders, there are some situations in which people cannot or choose not to pay, causing them to fall behind. In such cases, the state’s Child Support Administration (“CSA”) is allowed several options to collect past due amounts and encourage parents to stay current on their payments.
Ensuring full and prompt payment, as well as allowing for accurate tracking, the majority of child support obligations are collected through wage withholding. These orders direct people’s employers to deduct a specified amount from their paychecks and forward the funds to the State to be disbursed to their children’s custodial parent. In cases when parents fall behind on their obligations, the CSA may also intercept their unemployment and workers’ compensation benefits.
Garnish financial accounts
Sometimes, parents may choose not to make their child support payments, despite having the funds. When parents are in arrears, the CSA may pursue recovering their past due balances from their financial accounts.
Income tax refund offset
Should a parent owe at least $150 in back child support, the CSA may intercept all or a portion of their state income tax refunds to apply toward their past due balances. The federal income tax refunds of parents may also be intercepted if parents owe $500 or more in arrears, and the amount they owe is at least twice the amount of their monthly support obligations.
In cases when parents go 60 days or more without making their child support payments, they may be subject to a driver’s license suspension. Their driving privileges may remain revoked until they have arranged for a reinstatement with the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration, which typically requires payment in full or agreeing to an alternative arrangement. Parents may also have their professional licenses suspended if they are out of compliance with their child support orders for at least 120 days.
Contempt of court
As court orders, child support awards carry the same weight as other legal judgments. This means that, should parents willingly choose not to pay, despite having the ability, they may be found in civil contempt. Consequently, the judge may order penalties, which include possible incarceration.
Seeking legal guidance
Whether due to circumstances beyond their control or by their own choice, when Maryland parents do not fulfill their child support obligations, it may affect the custodial parents’ ability to provide for their children. Therefore, those who are owed past due amounts may find it helpful to consult with a legal representative. An attorney may help them understand their rights, as well as guide them through the process of seeking enforcement assistance.