The parents of a child have a legal and moral obligation to support their child until independence. This is expected, whether the parents are married, divorced, separated, or were never even married. In a lot of cases, after the parents of a child split up, one parent is left to provide for all the needs of the child. To avoid situations like this, child support laws have been put in place to establish legal orders for the noncustodial parent to also take part in the responsibility of raising the child.
Child Support Process After Divorce
Child support in the state of Maryland is administered by the Child Support Administration (CSA), under the Department of Human Services. The custodial parent of a child is eligible to request child support services. This is done by filling the form available at http://dhr.maryland.gov/?page_id=10326 and submitting it with a $15 application fee. This fee does not apply to parents who are receiving or have received public financial assistance. While applying, parents are also required to file a financial statement along with their application. In the application form, the custodial parent will have to fill in certain details of the noncustodial parent. These include last known address, last known employer and the employer’s address, phone number, physical description, etc.
When the application has been submitted, the CSA tries to establish contact with the other parent and notify them of the child support case. At this stage, any information previously provided may be key to locating the noncustodial parent. It is important that the parent is located and served a notice of the child support case, or the case cannot proceed.
The CSA can also help to legally establish paternity if the child was born to unmarried parents and there is a dispute on who the father is. A court would have to order a genetic (DNA) test to be carried out. DNA tests carried out to determine paternity cost $120 and have accuracy as high as 99%. Once the paternity of the child is established, the court issues a legal order of paternity. If the parents were married when the child was born, the man is legally assumed to be the father of the child.
After the confirmation process, the case then proceeds to a hearing. At this point, CSA determines how much would be paid as child support based on several factors.
More details on the application process and requirements can be found at https://dhs.maryland.gov/child-support-services/child-support-resources/.
How Do You Receive Child Support?
Parents whose child support payments go through the Maryland Child Support Enforcement Agency (SCEA)are automatically enrolled for the Electronic Payment Issuance Card (EPIC) program. The Electronic Payment Issuance Card is a debit card that has the monthly child support payments loaded onto it. The card can then be used by parents in the same way that a regular VISA debit card is used. Payments cannot be made into the EPIC card account by any party that is not CSEA. Those who wish to receive the funds to their bank accounts can call 1-800-332-6347 to request a direct deposit form. For more details, visit https://dhs.maryland.gov/child-support-services/apply-for-support-services/receiving-support-frequently-asked-questions/.
Amount Receivable as Child Support
Child support in Maryland is calculated using an Income Share Model. Factors such as the income of the parents, the age of the child, the number of children (if more than one), the healthcare costs/insurance and who pays for it, special needs of the child, outstanding child support obligations, dependents of both parents, etc. are all considered before a final amount is decided upon. A separate medical order may also be established for the child. Noncustodial parents who earn a sizable sum of money will generally pay more child support than those who earn low incomes. Parents can also request a review and modification of their child support order if they feel it no longer reflects the current circumstance of affairs. This is usually after significant income changes, variations in healthcare costs, or changes in custody arrangements.
Enforcement of Child Support
Noncustodial parents who do not pay on time, do not pay fully, or who do not pay at all will have enforcement actions taken against them automatically. These actions vary in severity and are intended to coerce the defaulting parent into making their payments as ordered. Some of these actions include:
- Intercepting tax refunds
- Reporting to credit agencies
- Withholding the child support from the parent’s wages
- Intercepting lottery winnings to pay off arrears.
- Denying passport applications
- Revoking or suspending recreational and professional licenses, etc.
In extreme cases, the child support office can initiate a contempt of court hearing which may result in jail time for the offender.
For more information on these enforcement actions, visit https://dhs.maryland.gov/child-support-services/apply-for-support-services/receiving-support-frequently-asked-questions/.