How Can I Enforce Child Support in Maryland?
You’ve completed divorce proceedings and established child support through the court – but you’re not receiving payments. What now? Plenty of parents have found themselves in this difficult position. Maryland courts recognize the possibility that one parent may choose not to pay child support, so they have created official avenues to pursue payments. Here we will cover the resources available to parents who might feel that it’s impossible to hold their co-parent accountable.
For the purposes of this article, we will refer to the parent paying child support as the non-custodial parent. The parent receiving child support payments will be referred to as the custodial parent.
Does child support have to be court ordered to be enforced in Maryland?
Sometimes, co-parents come to an agreement regarding child support outside of the courts. Although this can work well in certain situations, the custodial parent is left with almost no enforcement resources should the non-custodial parent stop making payments.
The prospect of finding an attorney, going to court, and establishing court-ordered child support payments may seem tedious, but Maryland courts simply cannot help you enforce child support unless you have gone through the proper channels. If you have a verbal agreement with a non-custodial spouse who has stopped making timely payments, applying for child support through the court will be your first step.
Can I deny visitation if I am not receiving court-ordered child support?
This is a common question from frustrated custodial parents. In Maryland, you may not deny visitation if child support payments are in arrears. If you choose to deny visitation, you could be in violation of your custody agreement, putting yourself at risk. The consequences of a custody violation can include a modification of your current custody order and/or being forced to pay the legal fees of the other parent.
Instead, it’s best to engage in the official process and allow it to work as it should.
How does Maryland enforce child support?
Once child support payments are established by the court, the Maryland Child Support Administration (CSA) takes over. Their main objective is ensuring smooth child support transactions and communication between parents. The Maryland Child Support Enforcement Administration (CSEA) oversees accounts that are in arrears.
The following methods are available to the CSEA to enforce child support.
Federal and State Income Tax Offset
Maryland federal and state laws authorize the CSEA to intercept federal and state income tax refunds. In this case, the refunds would be rerouted from the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent.
- Federal income tax offset requires arrears to be $500 or more, and at least twice the amount of the monthly child support order.
- State income tax offset requires arrears to be $150 or more, and at least twice the amount of the monthly child support order.
For example, if the non-custodial parent is ordered to pay $250 per month and they don’t pay for two months (owing $500), their federal and state income tax refund can be intercepted.
Passport and License Suspension
Administrative Passport Denial
- If the non-custodial parent owes $2,500 or more, new passport requests can be denied, and existing passports can be suspended. Typically, the account must be brought completely up to date for the denial or suspension to be lifted.
Driver’s License Suspension
- If the non-custodial parent is at least 60 days late in their payments as of the latest court order, their license can be suspended.
Professional License Suspension
- An account must be at least 120 days late for professional licenses to be suspended. They can be reinstated once the account is paid in full, or the non-custodial parent demonstrates timely and accurate payments for 4 consecutive months.
Wage Garnishment, Liens, Credit Bureau Reporting
Maryland has a database with records of child support orders, flagging accounts that are in arrears. Employers are required to report new hires within 20 days. If an employee matches with someone in the child support database and the account is past due, a wage withholding order is sent to the employer. Employers can garnish wages of any employee with overdue child support accounts. Maryland’s tracking system prevents non-custodial parents from avoiding wage garnishment, even if they frequently switch jobs. If the non-custodial parent is receiving unemployment insurance or worker’s compensation payments, these can also be rerouted to the custodial parent.
In some cases, a lien may be placed on property, resulting in the forced sale of assets to bring an account up to date.
The CSEA is also permitted to report delinquent accounts to a consumer credit reporting agency, impacting the non-custodial parent’s credit score until the overdue amount is paid.
If the court finds that a non-custodial parent is in a financial position to pay the court-ordered child support but has chosen not to, a judge can hold the non-custodial parent in contempt. The consequences of being held in contempt depend highly on the circumstances, but can result in the judge issuing a warning, imposing fines, or ordering incarceration.
Enforcing child support payments doesn’t have to be stressful.
Walking the line between peacefully co-parenting and advocating for your child can feel overwhelming. Although the systems created by the Maryland family court are designed to shoulder some of a custodial parent’s burden, they can be difficult to navigate on your own.
An experienced family law attorney will understand the complicated processes of filing legal documents, attending court appointments, and following up with relevant court contacts. They will keep you informed of each upcoming step so that you know what to expect. Having an experienced professional by your side can ease some of your stress while you pursue what your child is owed.