Annapolis Child Support Lawyer

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Child Support Attorney in Annapolis

Child support is money that one party is ordered to pay to another for the support of their child. In the most common situation, the party who has the child for the lesser period of time will pay child support to the party who has the child for the longer period of time. The purpose of child support is not only to meet the child’s basic needs such as food, shelter, and clothing. It is also to give the child the same standard of living that the parties enjoy. The parties may seek child support as part of a custody case, or they may seek it separately. Child support is usually awarded at the end of the child support case as a result of a trial or an agreement between the parties.

Child support is usually calculated using a mathematical formula that is based on the Maryland Child Support Guidelines and that takes into account several factors. Such factors include:

  • The incomes of both parties
  • Any alimony awarded between the parties
  • Any child support that either party is already court ordered to pay
  • The cost for medical insurance for the children
  • The cost for any extraordinary uninsured medical expenses for the children
  • The cost of private school tuition for the children
  • The cost of transportation that the parties incur to exercise visitation
  • The cost of daycare for the children

Do not try to represent yourself.

Someone who attempts to represent himself or herself without an attorney is taking a big risk. That party will likely make a less persuasive case and receive a less favorable child support decision than otherwise. After the process is completed, an unrepresented party will likely wonder if a better outcome could have been obtained with an attorney. He or she may later hire an attorney and spend years and substantial attorney fees attempting to modify child support.

Having an experienced attorney from the start is extremely important. Only an attorney has the necessary understanding of the law and the court process. An attorney will guide you through the process, advocate for you, and make a forceful case for you at trial if necessary. When the process ends, you likely will have peace of mind and a much better outcome.

Hire a skilled and aggressive attorney.

Patrick is not like other child support attorneys. Patrick has a boutique legal practice in which he provides high-quality service to a small number of clients. His practice is small, and that is how he likes it. He is the only attorney in his office. Having a small practice allows Patrick to provide a highly personalized service in which he gets to know each client and delivers representation that is tailored to achieve that client’s unique goals. He has spent the last 14 years handling child support cases. He has represented his clients in all stages of their cases, including settlement, trial, and appeal. He is aggressive while also being careful to avoid wasteful efforts and strategies that usually serve only to increase the client’s legal fees. Patrick directs his efforts in a focused and intelligent way on things that are most important to the client and that are calculated to bring results. He invites his clients to participate meaningfully in setting the case direction, he is friendly, and he is responsive.

Paternity

Child support is closely related to the issue of paternity. Paternity is the condition of being the biological father of a particular child. Often men admit to being the father, but sometimes they want proof. In most cases, the court will not order a man to pay child support if sufficient evidence is shown that the child is not biologically his. The court often provides an opportunity for the man to request that all parties and the child submit to a DNA test to determine whether the man is the biological father. However, the legal issue of paternity is complicated, and the court will not always grant such a request. If the man was married to the mother, the man may have difficulty escaping the obligation to pay child support. You should consult with a skilled family law attorney if you believe that you are being charged with supporting a child who you believe is not yours.

Child support when the parents have joint custody

When parties share physical custody of a child such that both have the child for at least 128 overnights per year (35% of the overnights), then the court will use a different child support formula than it otherwise would. Such formula will result in a substantially lower payment of child support.

The Maryland Child Support Guidelines

In most child support cases, the court sets child support based on the Maryland Child Support Guidelines. The Guidelines is a long list of income figures and corresponding child support amounts set forth in the Maryland code. Normally the court presumes that such amounts are in the child’s best interests, and it orders child support based on them without deviation.

Deviation from the Maryland Child Support Guidelines

The court is not free to deviate downward from the Maryland Child Support Guidelines amount unless the parties persuade the court that such deviation is in the child’s best interests. Examples of situations in which the court may deviate downward from the Guidelines amount are when one party would experience extreme and unavoidable financial hardship, or when the paying party already provides financially for the child in other ways.

Above-the-guidelines child support

The Maryland Child Support Guidelines provide strict requirements for what child support the court must order. However, the Guidelines only apply if the parties’ combined incomes do not exceed $15,000 per month. If the parties’ combined incomes exceed $15,000 per month, then the case is called an “above-the-guidelines” case. In above-the-guidelines child support cases, the court is not required to use the Guidelines, and it is free to be creative when fashioning a child support amount based on what it finds is in the best interests of the child.

Pendente lite child support

Often a party has an immediate need for child support and cannot wait until the end of a long child support case in order to start receiving it. In these situations, the party can ask the court to order pendente lite, or temporary, child support. “Pendente lite” is a Latin term that means “pending litigation”. Pendente lite child support covers only the period of time in which the case is pending. If a party makes such a request, the court will schedule a short pendente lite child support hearing in order to receive limited evidence on that issue.

Retroactive child support

When a court grants child support, it is free to grant such support retroactively to a previous date. Child support amounts that cover past time periods are called retroactive child support. The court is not free to order child support going back indefinitely. The court is free to go back only to the date of the child support petition. If the court grants retroactive child support, it will normally give the paying party credit for any child support payments that were made during such time.

Voluntary impoverishment

When the court calculates child support, it will do so using the incomes of the parties. Sometimes the court may find that one party is deliberatively earning less money than that party could be earning, and that such party is doing so in order to affect the child support calculation. If the court draws this conclusion, then it will find that such party is “voluntarily impoverished” and, for purposes of calculating child support, it will impute to that party the income that the party is capable of making.

Child support arrears

If a person is ordered to pay child support and subsequently does not make all of the payments, or if the court awards retroactive child support, then that party will accumulate an “arrears,” which is an amount of child support payments that such person is behind. In such cases, the court will usually not order that the person pay all of the arrears at one time. Instead, it will usually order that the person pay an additional small amount of child support every month in order to make up the arrears. Such additional amount will automatically terminate when the arrears is satisfied.

Child support garnishment

A party receiving child support often requests that child support be garnished, or automatically withheld, from the paying party’s paychecks. In such a situation, the employer would withhold the child support amounts and send them to the Office of Child Support Enforcement, who would then forward them to the receiving party. A request for garnishment is often made in order to increase the reliability with which child support is paid. The court must order garnishment if it is requested.

Modification

When the court establishes child support, it does so with the intent that the support order will be permanent for the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, even after support has been established, support can be modified under the right circumstances. In order to modify child support, the party seeking to modify child support must prove two things:

  • A substantial change in circumstances since the last child support order.
  • The child’s best interests are served by changing child support.

Situations in which the court may find a substantial change in circumstances are numerous. Some examples are:

  • A party’s income substantially decreases or increases.
  • The child turns 18 or graduates from high school.
  • There occurs a substantial change to the child’s health insurance, medical expense, private school tuition, or daycare expense.

Modification of child support is usually more difficult than initially establishing child support because the standard that the court must use is more difficult to meet. This higher standard for modifying child support is one reason why it is so important for a party to make sure that he or she does it right the first time by making a strong case when child support is being initially established.

Child support agreements

Parties often try to reach a written agreement on child support instead of allowing the court to decide it. Doing so has numerous advantages. It allows the parties to avoid the risk that the court will order child support with which the parties do not agree. It also allows the parties to save the time and expense associated with litigating their child support dispute all the way to trial. The parties must be careful when drafting such an agreement, however, because the court has the authority to disregard an agreement on child support if it finds that it violates the Maryland Child Support Guidelines or is otherwise not in the child’s best interests. An attorney can be extremely valuable in the negotiation and drafting of such an agreement.

Discovery

In any case involving child support, both parties have the right to conduct discovery. Discovery is the process of compelling the other side to provide information that may help one’s case. Discovery can occur in several different ways, including with interrogatories, requests for documents, and depositions. Discovery can also include obtaining documents from outside sources like employers and financial institutions. Discovery can sometimes uncover information that the other party is trying to hide. In cases involving child support, discovery is extremely important because a lot of detailed information is required in order to make a persuasive case to the court.

Contempt of court

When the court orders child support and the other party fails to pay, then, in order to enforce the child support order, the recipient party may file a petition for contempt of court. Contempt of court is a finding that a person was court ordered to do something and failed to do it. When the court orders that a person is in contempt for failing to pay child support, it will continue to hold them in contempt until they “purge” the contempt. In addition to requiring that the person purge the contempt, the court may also impose other penalties. Such penalties may include paying the other party’s attorney fees.

Attorney Fees

In any child support case, multiple opportunities exist for either party to request that the court order the other party to pay some or all of that party’s attorney fees. Often a party has an immediate need for attorney fees and cannot wait until the end of a long case in order to receive it. In this case the party may request pendente lite attorney fees. Or the party may choose to make the request at the end of the case. In either situation, the court will decide whether it is fair to grant such request based on multiple factors. The main factors include:

  • Whether the requesting party had a good-faith basis for pursuing his or her case.
  • Whether the requesting party needs assistance paying for his or her attorney.
  • Whether the other party has the ability to pay.

Child support cases are complicated.

Child support cases are complicated. Numerous factors exist to consider in even a moderately complicated child support case. Making a persuasive case in many child support matters requires a lot of work and organization. An experienced attorney is usually necessary in order to make such a case.

Contact Patrick Crawford today.

Regardless of how complex your child support case is, Patrick, our Annapolis Child Support Lawyer, is ready and eager to provide you with aggressive and personalized representation. He will discuss your goals with you and work tirelessly to secure a bright future for you. Contact him today.

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