17 Feb 2014

17 Feb 2014

Can I Modify My Child Support Award?

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familyChild support in Maryland must comply with the statutory child support guidelines. Either the parent paying child support (“obligor”) or the receiving parent (“payee”) can ask the Court to modify an existing child support order. The court will modify child support upon the existence of a material change of circumstances.

A “material” change needs to be a substantial change. Examples of material changes include a significant decrease in the obligor’s income or a significant increase in the payee’s income. There is no defined number or percentage to indicate a significant change in income, but often this occurs when the obligor changes jobs or is demoted, or when a stay at home payee-parent obtains a full time job. Additionally, a child reaching eighteen and graduating high school or otherwise becoming emancipated is a material change for purposes of modification. When a child support obligation was based in part on the allocation of financial responsibility for the family home, Maryland law provides authority for the Court to review the obligation at the expiration of a use and possession order. Revising child custody can also suffice as a material change if the parents change from sole custody to shared or vise versa. This list of changes is only an example of common material changes and does not encompass all possible changes that Courts consider “material.”

In order to modify a child support obligation, either party can file a petition with the Court. Under certain circumstances, a representative from the Department of Human Resources might assist a party in filing a Petition to Modify.  The Court cannot retroactively modify a child support order prior to the date of filing of a Petition to Modify, so it is often best to file as soon as the change occurs.