Father and daughter holding hands.

Do You Lose Custody for Not Paying Child Support in Maryland?

patrickcrawford | March 3, 2023

Child custody and child support both represent important parental rights and responsibilities, but they cannot be used as weapons by one parent against the other. The State of Maryland – and every other state in the nation – makes determinations regarding both child support and child custody in accordance with the children’s best interests. As such, one parent’s lapses in relation to child support are very unlikely to affect their child custody arrangements because such an undertaking is very unlikely to support the involved children’s best interests. 

If you have questions or concerns regarding child custody and child support, an experienced Maryland child custody attorney can help.


Child Custody and Child Support Are Separate Matters

Child custody and child support are important but separate matters in the eyes of the law. Child support is intended to balance the financial support both parents owe their children between them – in accordance with each parent’s ability to pay. Child custody, on the other hand, determines how the children divide their time between both parents – according to a wide range of variables that are designed to support the children’s best interests. 

It’s important to carefully follow both your child support and your child custody orders, and parents don’t have the legal power to withhold one in response to the other parent’s failure in relation to the other. This means that if you are not up to date with your child support payments, your ex cannot alter your parenting plan by withholding visitation in response – and vice-versa. This does not, however, mean that the parent who is lagging on child support will not face serious consequences. 


The Consequences of Failing to Pay Child Support

While failure to pay child support does not give the parent who receives the support the right to alter the child custody arrangements, it can lead to serious legal repercussions that include the following:

  • Having your wages, unemployment, or workers’ compensation garnished
  • Having the funds garnished from your bank account
  • Having your tax refund intercepted in lieu of payment
  • Having your driver’s license suspended
  • Having your credit rating affected
  • Having your professional and recreational licensure affected
  • Being held in contempt of court

Suffice it to say that failure to pay child support can impact your life in surprisingly negative ways. If you have experienced a significant decrease in your earnings or the amount of time you are able to spend with your children has changed considerably, you can seek a child support modification through the court. Until your court order is officially modified, however, it remains legally enforceable. 


Child Custody and Best Interest Factors

The primary reason that child custody orders do not hinge on child support payments is that prevailing wisdom finds a strong correlation between spending time with both parents and the children’s best interests. Children fare better when they have deep, abiding relationships with both parents, and neither parent has the legal right to deny the other of their court-ordered schedule with the children – regardless of the reason for doing so. 

The best interest factors that guide the decisions made by Maryland courts in relation to child custody include all the following:

  • Each parent’s ability to effectively care for their children
  • Each parent’s preference regarding child custody arrangements
  • Each child’s preference on the matter – as appropriate in relation to their age and maturity
  • Each parent’s commitment to supporting the other’s ongoing relationship with the children
  • Each parent’s ability to provide opportunities that support the children’s futures
  • The ages and overall physical and mental health of the children
  • Each parent’s overall physical and mental health
  • Each child’s specific needs, including any special needs
  • The distance the parents live from one another and the feasibility of regular visitation
  • The strength of the relationship between each of the parents and each of the children
  • Each parent’s ability and inclination to keep the lines of communication open between them
  • The demands each parent’s career poses in terms of their ability to be there for the children

Courts take the matter of child custody arrangements very seriously, and they don’t afford parents the leeway to alter them in response to child support concerns – or in response to anything else short of a modification.

Father and mother holding hands with smiling daughter.

The Determination of Child Support

Maryland employs what is known as an income shares model when it comes to calculating child support. As such, both parents’ incomes are taken into account along with all the following:

  • The number of minor children the parents share
  • The cost of the children’s health insurance 
  • Any child support obligation either parent has for children from other relationships
  • Any extraordinary expenses the children have
  • The number of overnights the children spend with each parent

The idea behind child support is to afford the children the same balance of support they would have received if the parents had remained married. The child support obligation is determined in accordance with each parent’s actual income, but if one parent is unemployed, the amount of their potential earnings may be factored in. 

Just as a parent cannot withhold visitation in response to child support that goes unpaid, child support payments cannot be withheld in response to thwarted visitation rights. Each is a separate matter that must be addressed by the court in order to reconcile the concern at hand or to modify the current terms in relation to a significant change in the supporting circumstances.   


Reach Out to an Experienced Maryland Child Custody Attorney for the Help You Are Looking For Today

Child custody and support matters can be complex, and many parents fail to comply with court orders. You need legal help for initial custody and support matters, modifications, and enforcement. 

Patrick Crawford at the Law Office of Patrick Crawford in Annapolis is a formidable child custody attorney who dedicates his imposing practice to guiding challenging cases like yours toward advantageous outcomes, and he’s on your side. To learn more about how we can help, please don’t wait to contact or call us at (410) 216-7905 today.

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