Modifying Child Support in Maryland

A common question I receive is “Under what circumstances can a child support order be changed?” A child support order may be issued by a court during a divorce or custody dispute.  During a proceeding when custody, visitation or child support are being decided, the court follows the Child Support Guidelines in order to determine the appropriate amount of child support to be paid each month. The court applies these guidelines unless it is decided that it would unjust or irrational to apply the guidelines in your case. However, what happens if something happens in your life which makes it difficult for you pay child support? Perhaps after the court order has been issued, you may lose your job and the only job you can find pays significant less. This may cause the child support payments you previously paid to be onerous. In other cases, you may acquire additional costs in your life, such as a family member moving in with you or a new child is born. Must you risk defaulting on your other expenses in order to pay child support? Is there any remedy for you?


In some cases, child support may be modified. In order to obtain a modification of child support, the person seeking the modification must show a material change in the circumstances of at least one of the parties since the last time the court decided the issue. So what constitutes a material change? According to Maryland Court of Special Appeals in Pettito v. Petitto, a material change is a change “relevant to the level of support a child is actually receiving or entitled to receive” and “of a sufficient magnitude to justify judicial modification of the support order.” Therefore, if the person paying child support experiences a significant change in living standard or income, he can petition for a reduction of child support. This also applies if the child support payer begins to earn additional income; in this case, the receiving parent can petition the court for a higher child support payment. The court will focus on the changes in income after the support order was issued in order to make its determination. However, the person paying child support cannot voluntarily impoverish himself in order to reduce his child support. If the court determines that voluntary impoverishment has occurred, the court may use potential income as the standard of child support. Child support is essentially determined by the best interests of the child. The court uses Child Support Guidelines to set the proper amount of support unless there has been a material change since the amount of child support has been set. Therefore, if you have a change in circumstances that makes the amount of child support you are paying to be burdensome, petition the court for a modification.


If you are currently paying child support and have experienced a change in circumstances that would justify a reduction in child support, please contact The Law Office of Ernest J. Edwards. Call or text 202-594-8283 or e-mail to get legal help today.


Notice: This is not legal advice. This article is attorney advertising and legal information. This information does not establish an attorney-client relationship, which is only formed when you have signed an engagement agreement. We cannot guarantee results; past results do not guarantee future results.