To ask the court to change your alimony, child support or child custody order at any point after your divorce is final, your attorney must file a motion with the court. The motion must demonstrate that there has been a significant change in circumstances that warrants a modification of the order.
And in the case of an order dealing with child support or custody, the motion also must explain how the proposed modification would serve the best interests of the child. The Frederick family law attorneys at Haspel, McLeod & Drawbaugh, P.C. have many years of experience in pursuing and challenging requests for modifications of alimony, child support, child visitation and child custody.
Either the parent who pays child support or the parent who receives it can ask the court to modify the support order at any time before the child’s 18th birthday. To win a modification, you must show that the circumstances that existed at the time of the last child support order have changed significantly. There is no limit on how often you can request a modification.
In Maryland, if either parent’s income has increased or decreased by 25 percent or more, the court is likely to grant a modification of the child support order. If the child’s needs change dramatically — because of illness or disability, for example — the court also is likely to increase the support. The mere passage of time also can justify an increase because clothes, food and other essentials cost more as the child gets older.
Support can be reduced if, for example, the custodial parent receives a large inheritance, wins the lottery or gets a big pay raise. It can also be reduced if the noncustodial parent becomes unemployed, disabled or imprisoned. Any modification of a support order should be done formally, through the court. It is not prudent to make an oral agreement with your ex-spouse to increase or decrease the support. Consult the Frederick & Rockville divorce attorneys at Haspel, McLeod & Drawbaugh, P.C. if you are considering a modification of a child support order.
An ex-spouse cannot avoid a support obligation by intentionally failing to make money. Maryland law calls this “voluntary impoverishment.” If the court finds that your ex-spouse has voluntarily impoverished himself or herself, the court will set the amount of support at the level that would be appropriate if he or she were working. In doing so, the court will consider your ex-spouse’s health, education, work history and efforts to find work.
Maryland courts do not consider being in jail or prison to be voluntary impoverishment — unless the ex-spouse committed a crime just to avoid paying support. Support payments must resume when the imprisonment ends.
The parent who wants to have a child custody order changed has the burden of persuading the court that it should be modified. Courts favor stability for children, so the judge is unlikely to disturb the current custody arrangement unless you can show that the current situation is harming the child.
A child who is 16 or older can seek a change in custody on his or her own. But, again, the child would have the burden of proving that a change of custody would serve his or her best interests.
The family law attorneys at Haspel, McLeod & Drawbaugh, P.C. represent those who are seeking or opposing a modification of an alimony, child support or child custody order. Call us at 301-631-0592, or contact us online today. Our offices are in Frederick and Rockville. Our Maryland attorneys represent individuals and families throughout Frederick, Montgomery, Washington and Howard counties.