Mother and father with a lawyer discussing child support agreement

Modification of Child Support Based on Income Changes

patrickcrawford | April 14, 2022

Modifying Child Support Based on Income Changes

Modification of child support can come when you divorce or address child support outside of marriage – your child support terms are set in accordance with the financial circumstances and parental responsibilities that apply at the time. Child support in Maryland is calculated according to exacting state guidelines that incorporate wide-ranging factors.

With the passage of time, however, your circumstances, including your financial circumstances, can change, and this has never been truer than it is currently (with the waves of change instigated by the pandemic that we have all experienced). If you need a child support modification based on income changes whether you pay child support or you are the recipient you need an experienced family law attorney on your side. 

Child Support

The State of Maryland, like all other states, requires both parents to support their children financially, and when parents are not together, child support is the legal tool used to help balance this support between both parents. Maryland bases every child-related decision on the best interests of the children involved, and this is what guides child support determinations. 

Child Support Modifications

The two primary factors that guide child support payments in Maryland include how much time each parent spends with the children and each parent’s income (relative to the other’s income). If one of you is the primary custodial parent – with whom your shared children make their primary home he or she is likely to be the recipient of child support paid by the other parent. 

Even, however, if you split your parenting time 50/50, the parent who is the higher earner is very likely to have the child support responsibility (based on the fact that parents are required to support their children in accordance with their ability to do so). As such, if you receive child support and your income has decreased or your ex’s income has increased, a child support modification may be in order.

On the other hand, if you pay child support and your income has decreased or your ex’s has increased, the change could support a child support modification.  

parents income changes

Child Support Modifications Are Not Automatic

In order to receive a child support modification, either you or your ex will need to request it. There are no automatic child support modifications, which means you’ll need to be proactive if you require a modification based on a change in income.

Either parent can request a modification, but in order for the court to modify the original award, the change in income must reach the level of being classified as a material change, which means a change that is significant enough to be relevant. 

In the State of Maryland, a change in income that amounts to at least 25 percent is very likely significant enough to qualify as a material change. While an amount less than this may also qualify for a child support modification, the matter is less clear. A dedicated family law attorney can help you establish the material nature of the income change you’ve experienced. 

Verbal Agreements Are Not the Way to Go

If you and your children’s other parents are able to come to an agreement regarding a child support modification, you are doing something right and should commend yourself for keeping the lines of communication open in your co-parenting efforts. The most important point to make on this topic, however, is that the child support order provided to you by the court remains legally binding until it is modified by the court. 

This means that, if your children’s other parent changes his or her mind regarding your verbal agreement for a child support modification or if he or she has a different understanding of the terms you’ve agreed upon, it can leave you without a legal leg to stand on.

If you and your ex are, however, in agreement regarding a child support modification, the court will almost certainly sign off on that modification allowing you both to remain in compliance with the court’s child support order. 

close up of a young man speaks - words power - watch your words concept

Requesting a Child Support Modification

Child support modifications generally happen in one of two ways. 

Child Support Review

Every three years, either one of you can request Child Support Enforcement to review your child support order. Since child support is required in the State of Maryland until a child reaches the age of 18 (or 19 if still in high school), there may be plenty of opportunities for a child support review. Such reviews are not automatic, but they are available upon request every three years (from the date of the last review or from the date of the original order). 

Modification Request

If you have experienced a material change in relation to your child support orders, such as a material change in either parent’s income, you can request a child support modification by filing a motion with the circuit court that originally issued your child support order. 

A Note on Voluntary Impoverishment

A parent cannot actively avoid paying the child support that his or her children require and deserve by choosing to earn less money and thereby keeping his or her child support obligation minimal. This conscious choice on the parent’s part whatever his or her reason is for voluntarily impoverishing himself or herself will not be lost on the court, and it has the ability to impute income in response.

This means that the court can order the parent to pay child support in accordance with what he or she would earn if he or she had an income that was in keeping with his or her earning potential. A determination about the imputation of income for a parent is based on factors such as the following:

  1. The parent’s level of physical health
  2. The parent’s level of education
  3. The timing of any employment change experienced by the parent (did he or she quit his or her job in direct response to a child support requirement for example)
  4. The parent’s efforts to obtain a job, further education, or job training
  5. The parent’s job history
  6. Any other factors the court deems relevant

If the parent who owes child support is in jail or prison, it is not considered a matter of voluntary impoverishment unless he or she purposefully committed a crime in an effort to get out of paying child support. 

Turn to an Experienced Annapolis, MD Family Law Attorney for the Legal Guidance You Need

If you or your ex has undergone a financial change that could lead to you receiving more child support or to you paying less child support, it’s time to address the matter of a child support modification.

The fact is that, even if you are entitled to a modification under the law, it will not be forthcoming unless you pursue it, and having professional legal counsel in your corner is well advised. 

Contact Us

The Law Office of Patrick Crawford is a dedicated family law attorney who takes immense pride in his proven track record of helping clients like you obtain the child support modifications to which they are entitled. We are on your side and here to help, so please don’t hesitate to contact or call us at 410 216-7905 for more information today.


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