Maryland child support orders, once issued, do not change on their own. In order for the amount of child support required in an order to either increase or decrease, the court that issued the order will need to issue a modification. Maryland courts will make modifications only when there has been a material change in circumstances affecting the child. This post is meant to provide some insight into how, when, and why child support modifications can be made.
Q: How can a Maryland child support order be modified?
A: In Maryland either parent, meaning either the parent who pays the support or the parent who receives the support, can seek to have an existing child support order modified. The process of seeking a modification begins with filing a formal request with the court. That request is called a “Motion to Modify Child Support,” or something similar. Like all motions, it must be properly captioned, meaning that it must feature the correct details of the case at the top of the first page. It also must be signed by the parent who is making the request and properly served on the other parent. And at the end of the document there needs to be a certificate of service telling the court when and by what means the motion was delivered to the other party.
Q: When can a Maryland child support order be modified?
A: Either parent can ask for a modification at any time. But the court will consider a modification only when there has been a material change in circumstances relating to the child. This means that parent who is asking for the modification of the existing order has the burden of showing that there has been significant change in one or more factors that directly affects the child’s welfare. If the parent who is asking for the change to the existing order cannot show that there has been a material change in circumstances, then the court should not grant the requested change to the order. In general, changes in earnings of 25% or greater, serious changes in the health of the parents or the child, and sometimes the child’s increased age on its own can be sufficient basis for the court to modify an existing order. Smaller changes in salary and temporary conditions that are not likely to have a significant effect on the child should not permit the court to change the existing support order.
Q: Why modify a Maryland child support order?
A: Modifications are most commonly sought by custodial parents who want increased support contributions. In these case cases the parent who files the motion to modify typically cites the other parent’s increased wages or points to a lengthy period of time having passed since the last support order was issued. There are other types of modifications, however. Non-custodial parents who want to lessen their support contributions may also seek modifications. By pointing to their loss of work, decreased pay, sickness, or other factors, they can sometimes convince the court to reduce their support contributions, and thereby avoid late payments, arrears, and possibly even contempt for non-payment.
Matthew Baum is an attorney with offices in Baltimore, Catonsville, and Columbia, Maryland. He can be reached during business hours by calling (410) 929-3435.