In Maryland, a non-custodial parent is typically required to pay child support until the child reaches the age of 18. In some circumstances, however, the child support agreement may be extended to the child’s 19th birthday, if the child is still enrolled in high school at that time.
When child support payments are not met, the child’s age does not come into consideration until all funds are paid. For parents who are behind on child support payments, this means that there are limited options available for child support payment relief.
To this point, factors like unemployment may not help in pausing or eliminating child support payments. To help maintain child support payment, parents should consider court modification petitions and possible child support renegotiation options. In the end, child support responsibilities continue, even when a parent is unemployed or facing unique payment barriers caused by COVID-19.
Child Support Options While Unemployed
Unemployment can convolute an already difficult child support payment plan. Since child support is oftentimes crucial for the custodial parent and child, the government may intervene. In the case of unemployment, the government may deduct unemployment benefits to maintain the child support agreement.
Unemployment alone may not be a plausible defense in certain scenarios. In Maryland, a parent cannot use unemployment to avoid paying child support for an extended period of time. If a parent is found to be leveraging “voluntary impoverishment” to circumvent child support payments, the courts may reject a modification.
If you are unable to meet the child support requirements while unemployed, you may want to file a modification of child support motion with your case specialist. In this instance, you must explain what changes have occurred since the previous child support payment.
To request a modification, you should contact a family law attorney or submit a written request to your case specialist outlining the new child support situation. The specialist will then investigate the new circumstances and see if a modification is necessary. Factors like the conditions surrounding the unemployment and a reduction in more than 25% of your income (including unemployment benefits) may help the modification motion pass.
Child Support Payments During COVID-19
COVID-19 continues to take a toll on our workforce. With many furloughed, working limited hours, or on unemployment, the ongoing pandemic is limiting income for many individuals. While reduced income is already an issue, this lack of work or opportunity hurts those who are required to pay child support.
Unfortunately for those workers, COVID-19 may not entitle them to pauses or reductions in child support payments. According to the courts, COVID-19 affects custodians and non-custodians simultaneously. From food to medical care costs, COVID-19 has seemingly exacerbated the need for child support.
“COVID-19 has been hard for everybody, and the family law courts know that,” said Attorney Tammy Begun of Capital Family Law Group. “While one parent may have been hit harder by the pandemic than the other, the reality is both parents have a contractual obligation to support their child. However, modifications can be made to a child support agreement depending on specific circumstances. A child support lawyer can help you evaluate your case and determine whether you have a case for a modification to your child support agreement.”
Initially, the Maryland child support court system extended temporary cash assistance deadlines to help noncustodial parents who were behind or unable to make child support payments. This initiative was originally established for a 90-day period but was eventually extended to August 1, 2020. Barring any further retroactive changes or extended deadlines, those who are behind on child support payments may not be entitled to the Maryland temporary cash assistance program until the payments are paid.
Like regular unemployment benefits, outstanding child support payments may be taken out of COVID-19 financial assistance packages. In particular, some or all funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act may be diverted to child support payments. These factors make paying child support or modifying an existing child support agreement crucial.
Making Maryland Child Support Payments while Unemployed
Due to the constant nature of Maryland child support payments, the noncustodial parent is typically required to make the payments in full as scheduled, regardless of unemployment and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
However, if the parent’s situation creates a substantial barrier in making those payments, a modification petition should be brought to the courts. Doing so may help modify the child support court order and find ways to forgive or delay unmade payments.
By working with a Maryland child support attorney, you can better navigate the unemployment child support petition process. A child support attorney can help file the appropriate paperwork, establish the strengths in your case, negotiate with your co-parent and lobby for the courts to adjust the existing child support order. While unemployment may not pause child support payments, a modification may find solutions that work for both parties.