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How child support works

When child support is awarded following a divorce in Maryland, the noncustodial parent must pay support to the parent who has custody of the child. The first step in determining support arrangements is to establish a relationship with the child. The process of giving birth to a child establishes maternity. With paternity, if a couple is married when their child is born, the husband is typically considered the father. If parents aren't married when a child is born, an Acknowledgment of Paternity Affidavit can be completed by both parents to establish paternity.

Should paternity be questioned or contested, the Child Support Enforcement Agency may conduct DNA testing. Provided that the results show a 99 percent probability of fatherhood, an administrative paternity order will then be issued. If either party refuses to submit to testing, the court can force compliance. The arrangements for child support are made after paternity is confirmed with a support order.

Support may be awarded to a biological parent or a legal guardian with whom the child lives. The amount to be payed is based on state guidelines and verification of the income of both parents. This process includes submitting recently filed tax returns. The established father must go to court to make a surname change if the mother refuses to allow the child to have the father's last name.

With cases involving delinquent payments or failure to make ordered payments, a family law attorney may make initial attempts to resolve the matter without going to court. If resolution efforts fail, a lawyer may reach out to the CSEA to obtain funds from the paying parent's state or federal tax refund, report the debt to credit bureaus, or increase employer income withholding amounts. Failing to pay child support automatically places the paying parent in contempt of court, which could result in fines or jail time.

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