With many disputes about child support, one parent typically feels the amount set is too low and the other maintains it's too high. Sometimes, as a result of these disputes, child support falls by the wayside and children suffer the financial consequences.
This article will explain how child support orders are enforced in the State of Maryland. If you have any questions about child support enforcement after you read this article, you should contact a family law attorney for advice.
After a divorce or separation, both parents are expected to provide basic financial support for things like food, housing and clothing. They're also responsible for medical expenses like health insurance premiums.
The parent who has physical custody (meaning, the parent who cares for the children more frequently) spends a greater percentage of time with the children. That parent pays for more of the children's needs simply because they're together more often. The other parent (known as the non-custodial parent), spends less time with the children and has to make regularly scheduled child support payments to ensure that each parent is paying a fair share.
For purposes of this article, the parent who receives child support is known as the "receiving parent," while the parent who has to pay is called "the paying parent." In Maryland, child support orders are determined according to each parent's adjusted actual income and a mathematical formula known as the child support guidelines. See Child Support in Maryland by Susan Bishop, for more information.
When a paying parent fails to make court-ordered child support payments on time, a receiving parent may need assistance enforcing and collecting payments. Some of the Maryland enforcement options are discussed below.
The Maryland Child Support Enforcement Administration (CSEA) enforces state and federal laws regarding child support. CSEA performs a number of critical child support functions. It uses an administrative (non-judicial) process to; establish paternity of children born to unmarried couples, establish and modify child and medical support obligations, and enforce child and medical support obligations.
CSEA also facilitates the EPiC financial program. Paying parents make their payments to CSEA, which distributes the funds through the EPiC (Electronic Payment Issuance Card) system. Only CSEA can add money to the EPiC card. The program has a couple of major benefits. First, paying parents and receiving parents no longer have to write checks or exchange payment with each other, thus avoiding a major opportunity for arguments. Second, the receiving parent's child support funds are placed directly on the card and are available to spend immediately, without having to be deposited into a bank account.
CSEA also has a variety of enforcement tools it can use when paying parents aren't meeting their child support obligations. However, in urgent or complicated cases, parents might find it's in their best interest to locate a private lawyer or legal aid attorney who can go to court and argue to a judge on their behalf. In some circumstances, this can be more effective than waiting for CSEA to act.
CSEA (and family court judges) can facilitate the collection of payments from parents with past-due accounts (known as "arrearages") using a variety of legal tools, including:
If you're a paying parent, make sure you keep up with your child support obligation and don't fall into arrearages. If you think you might have a problem, contact CSEA, a family lawyer, or a legal aid attorney for advice about changing your payments and paying off your arrearages. If you're a receiving parent, it's important that you understand all the child support enforcement mechanisms available. If you have further questions after reading this article, you should contact a family law attorney in your area.
Code of Maryland (Unannotated)
Maryland Courts: Legal Help with Family Cases
The People's Law Library of Maryland (child support topics)
Maryland Department of Human Resources, Child Support Services