Child Custody and Support Jurisdiction in Maryland

In Maryland, as in other states, the Court cannot touch the issue of child custody and child support unless it has something called “jurisdiction”. This is so even if a person files otherwise correct paperwork and pays the correct filing fee. Jurisdiction can be thought of as the authority of the court to address the particular issue being raised. The court cannot address an issue like child custody, child support, or anything else for that matter, unless it has jurisdiction, or authority, granted to it by the law.

So when does the court have jurisdiction to address child custody and child support? The laws regarding jurisdiction are different for the two.

On the issue of child custody, the issue of jurisdiction is fairly complicated. It isn’t necessary to outline the law in detail here because the purpose of this post is to provide a general understanding. It suffices to say that, basically, jurisdiction on the issue of child custody is governed by the residence of the child. In most cases, a Maryland court has jurisdiction to award custody only of a child whose home state is Maryland. If the child’s home state is a state other than Maryland, the courts of Maryland will be unable to hear the case and may dismiss it. A child’s home state is that state in which the child most recently lived for at least six months. If no state qualifies, then the question becomes more complicated and other rules apply.

Jurisdiction for child support purposes is different than for child custody. While jurisdiction for child custody purposes usually lies in the state in which the child resides, jurisdiction for child support purposes lies in the state in which the paying parent resides. The only complication that may occur is when the child custody case occurs in a state that is different than the state in which the paying parent resides. In such a case, the court hearing the custody case may not have jurisdiction to hear the child support matter. Even if it does hear the child support matter, that state will not have authority to enforce the child support in the payer’s home state but will have to later enroll the case in the state of the paying parent. As a result, the parties often find it simplest to adjudicate the child support issue separately in the state in which the paying parent lives.


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