CHILD SUPPORT FAQs
What type of income is used to determine eligibility?
How can I get information about my child support case?
The Maryland Child Support Administration has a toll-free Maryland Child Support Contact Center (1-800-332-6347) to handle all of your general questions and provide payment information. The Maryland Contact Center can accept requests for payment history, address changes, employment changes, and requests for enforcement of a court order.
If the information or assistance you need cannot be provided by the Maryland Contact Center, a work order will be prepared and emailed to your case specialist. After the information is reviewed by your case specialist, appropriate action will be taken, and if necessary, you will be contacted within twenty-one (21) days. If a work order is a priority matter, such as an issue for an upcoming court date, a driver’s license suspension, or an employer with a wage lien question, you will be contacted within 24 hours.
Please allow ten (10) working days after a hearing date for updated information regarding your account to be posted to the case file. Please note: your calls will not be forwarded to the local child support office on a routine basis.
Which office should I go to?
Child support enforcement is a cooperative process involving the Department of Social Services, the State’s Attorney’s Office, the Circuit Court, and the Sheriff’s Office. Each agency has a specific role to play. Generally, inquiries about your child support case are best handled through the Maryland Contact Center. You will be redirected to the other agencies if necessary.
ESTABLISHING A CHILD SUPPORT ORDER
How do I get an order for my child’s other parent to pay child support?
The first step is to apply for child support services at the Department of Social Services, 200 Kent Avenue, La Plata, Maryland. There is a $25.00 application fee. You should provide as much information as possible to identify the other parent, including a physical description, birth date, place of work, home address, and phone numbers. You should also provide copies of any court orders regarding custody and/or child support.
What if he says he’s not the father of my child?
If the person you identified as the father denies paternity, he can request that genetic testing be performed. You, your child and the father will be court-ordered to appear for a testing appointment. Currently, this is done by buccal swab, taking a sample from the inside of the cheek on a cotton swab. Blood testing is no longer necessary. If a paternity affidavit was signed in the hospital at the time the child was born or if there is already a court order establishing paternity, it is very difficult to change. If the child was born during the time you were married, the husband is presumed to be the father of the child. You may wish to contact an attorney for legal advice.
How long will it take to process my case?
A person must be personally served with the notice of the proceedings to establish child support. Current and accurate information as to the non-custodial parent’s residence and mailing address is essential. The longer it takes to locate and personally serve the person, the longer it will take to establish a child support order. The State’s Attorney’s Office and the Child Support Enforcement Agency are required to follow all deadlines set by federal regulations and Maryland statute for processing your case. When one of the parents lives in another state, the other state’s statutes and regulations also influence how long it takes to complete each step of the process.
I received a summons for Court. What should I do?
You should appear in Court on the date and time stated in the summons. If the attached complaint is for establishing paternity and child support or for modifying child support, you should contact the State’s Attorney’s Office at (301) 932-2355.
Failure to appear for a court proceeding may result in a breach warrant being issued for your arrest.
How do I change my court date?
If you are unable to appear for a scheduled court date, you should submit a written request to postpone your hearing, clearly stating the reason you are not able to come on the court date. You should include copies of any documents that support your request, such as information from a doctor or a letter from your employer. Make sure that your request includes a phone number where you can be contacted during business hours. Your request needs to be filed with the Circuit Court at least three (3) days before your hearing. The Master or Judge will consider your request and you will be contacted if your hearing is postponed.
Do not assume that your request will automatically be granted.
if your request is not granted and you fail to appear, a warrant may be issued for your arrest.
I know the other parent received a summons, but he/she has no car.
Anyone who is served with a summons to appear in court must appear on the scheduled date.
Do all states handle cases the same way?
No. While every state has its own child support process and its own methods of calculating child support, all states have the same goals of establishing paternity, setting up a child support order, and enforcing the order.
How long will it take to get my child support payment?
Generally, a child support order will be established within 90-180 days. Several factors may delay the establishment process – for example: the other parent lives out of state; the other parent cannot be located and served with a summons; one parent is incarcerated; there are problems verifying income; or failure to appear for a settlement conference or a court hearing.
What do you put into the child support guidelines?
Maryland uses an income shares model for its child support guidelines. Both parents’ incomes are included to calculate the amount of child support required under Maryland law. The guidelines also take into account the cost of health insurance for the child, child support being paid for other children, alimony being paid, the cost of daycare, private school tuition, and extraordinary medical expenses for the children.
I am living with/married to someone else now. Does her/his income count?
Generally, no. However, if you no longer work because you are fully supported by your current partner, the Court may use your income from a previous job to calculate child support. The value of the support you receive from your current partner can also be considered your income.
He/she just had another child, but my child was born first. Shouldn’t my child get more money?
Not necessarily. The child support guidelines permit credit to be given within the guidelines computation to an obligor who is under order to support another child. The presence of other children in the obligor’s household by itself is not a reason to deviate from the child support guidelines.
My girlfriend/boyfriend/new spouse has a child which I am supporting. Can I get credit for supporting that child since he/she lives in my household?
No. You may only receive credit for a child which you are legally obligated to support. If you have legally adopted the other child or you have a court order giving you custody or guardianship, then your support of that child may be considered in calculating child support.
How long am I obligated to pay child support?
Under Maryland law, child support continues until the minor child reaches the age of 18; it may be extended to age 19 if the child is still enrolled in secondary school (high school). If there is past-due child support, the agency will continue to enforce payment until the arrears are paid in full, regardless of the age of the child.
Can I get retroactive child support?
Child support is established as of the date a complaint is filed with the court, unless good reason is provided for starting the support order at a later date. The Court may give the non-custodial parent credit for any financial contribution made for the children since the filing date of the case.
Can you enforce a separation agreement?
In order for the child support agency to collect child support or enforce an obligation, there must be a court order, signed by a Judge. If your agreement has been incorporated into a court order or divorce decree, it can be enforced. Otherwise, your separation agreement may be used as a piece of evidence in requesting the Court to establish a child support order. You may use private legal counsel to enforce the written contractual agreement between you and the other parent.
Where should I make my payments?
Payments should be mailed to the Maryland Child Support Account, P.O. Box 17396, Baltimore, Maryland 21297-1396. Please include your nine digit case number and “Charles County” on all payments. In very limited circumstances, cash payments will be accepted at the local Department of Social Services.
Will there be a wage lien to take child support out of my paycheck?
The law now requires that all new court orders have support payments made by wage attachment, unless there is good cause not to do so. Examples of good cause include: 1) agreement between the parties for the child support to be paid directly to the custodial parent; 2) the payor is self-employed; or 3) the payor is a union worker who changes employers frequently. If you change your job you must notify the child support agency of your new employment information immediately so the wage lien can be redirected. It is your responsibility to make sure that your payments are made on time.
How long before my employer starts making deductions?
It may take several weeks after your court date for a wage lien to be mailed to your employer. Once your employer receives the wage lien, he/she is required to make a deduction within 10 days or the next pay period. Until you receive a pay stub which shows that your employer has started deducting the child support payment, you are responsible for sending your support payments to the Maryland Child Support Account. You can speed this process by taking a copy of the order you receive on your court date to your employer and ask him/her to start making deductions immediately. You should monitor your account to make sure you are receiving credit for the wage lien payments.
Can you attach my unemployment, worker’s compensation, or disability checks?
Yes. You should contact the child support agency as soon as your job status changes to make arrangements for paying your support so that you do not fall behind. Some types of disability payments provide for benefits to be paid for the children on account of your disability. You should discuss this matter with your case agent promptly.
The other parent is paid “under the table”. Can you attach that money by wage lien?
Unfortunately, no. The very nature of “under the table” wages mean those wages are not subject to payroll taxes or wage withholding because the employer is not doing the necessary record keeping or paperwork. In order to attach wages, the employer must cooperate with the court order by withholding the support from the pay and forwarding it to the Maryland Child Support Account. If you have evidence of “under the table” wages, you must bring the information to the attention of the State’s Attorney’s Office.
The other parent is self-employed. Can you attach those earnings?
Sometimes. It requires the cooperation of the self-employed person to arrange for payroll withholding.
MODIFYING A CHILD SUPPORT ORDER
How do I request an increase/decrease in my child support?
A substantial change is circumstances must have occurred after the last child support order was entered for a change to be made in the support order. A few changes that may be grounds for a modification are: significant changes in income for either parent, incarceration, changes in work related day care cost, changes in health care costs, changes in transportation costs for visitation, a change in custody, or a change in the financial needs of the child. If you believe there has been a substantial change in your circumstances or the other parent’s circumstances since the last order was entered, you must send a written statement to your case specialist at the Department of Social Services, explaining the change in circumstances and why you are requesting an increase or decrease in child support. You also will be asked to submit a financial statement. Please note that your request will not be processed until the financial statement is received.
My child is now living with the other parent. What should I do?
If you are no longer the custodial parent, you should notify your case specialist with a written statement that you no longer have custody of your child and who does have custody of the child. A copy of the court order stating that there has been a change in custody or school enrollment information should be provided to show that you no longer have custody.
The children are now living with me. Can I get my payments stopped immediately?
If you are paying child support and your child now lives with you, you should send a written statement to your case specialist stating that the child lives with you and begin the process of filing a motion to suspend your child support payment. A copy of the court order stating that there has been a change in custody or school enrollment information should be provided to show that you now have custody. The case specialist or the State’s Attorney’s Office may investigate the matter and ask for additional information to document the change of custody. Any child support payments that are received after the request for a change is made may me be placed in escrow and not distributed until the court makes a decision on the modification. The case specialist or the State’s Attorney will try to negotiate a consent based on the change in circumstances. If no consent order is signed within a reasonable amount of time, the case will be set for a hearing.
I lost my job (or I got a job making less money). I cannot afford the court-ordered child support. What can I do?
A modification of child support may be appropriate if circumstances have changed substantially since the last order was entered. You should send a written statement to your case specialist stating what changes have occurred since the last order for child support was entered. The specialist will investigate your request to determine whether or not your case meets the agency’s guidelines for a modification, or you may represent yourself and file a motion for modification, or you may represent yourself and file a motion for modification, submitting the paperwork to your case specialist. Please note: non-custodial parents’ requests for modification should not be sent to the State’s Attorney’s Office.
I have been laid off and can’t pay my court ordered child support. What can I do?
If you receive unemployment benefits during the time that you are laid off, you need to make sure that your child support is paid. The child support payments can be deducted automatically from your unemployment benefits. If your child support payments are not automatically deducted, you can ask for an earnings withholding order.
If you are not receiving unemployment benefits and cannot find another job promptly, you may qualify for a modification of child support as explained above.
One or both parents have another child since the last child support order was entered. How will this effect child support?
It will probably not affect the existing child support order. The existing child support order will be considered when setting support for children born later. If either parent requests a modification, the other parent will be given notice and an opportunity to contest the proposed change. The fact that a parent has another child in his/her household to support cannot by itself be a justification for deviating from the support amount recommended by the Maryland Child Support Guidelines.
I am living with or married to someone else since my child support order was entered, or the other parent is now living with or married to someone else. Am I entitled to an increase/decrease in child support?
Generally, no. The incomes that are considered for purposes of calculating the recommended amount of child support according to the Maryland Child Support Guidelines are the income of both parents. The income of spouse or live in boyfriends or girlfriends usually are not considered. However, if you live with a partner who supports you or pays bills for you, the court may consider that to be your income for purposes of computing the recommended amount of child support.
My child (or one of my children) turned eighteen (18). How do I get my child support reduced or terminated?
Send a written statement to your case specialist stating the facts of your case. To modify your order when only one of your children has turned eighteen (18), you must file a Motion to Modify with the court. Your agent will help you with this process. Please note that if your child is still in high school, the obligation to pay child support continues until she/he turns nineteen (19).
Send the change to your case specialist at:
Charles County Department of Social Services/Child Support
200 Kent Avenue
La Plata, MD 20646-1010
Attention: Name of Case Specialist
I have a new employer. How can I get my employer to withhold child support from my wages?
You are required to report any change in employment to the agency and to the court within ten (10) days of any change. You should contact the agency by calling 1-800-332-6347. The agency will issue an administrative earnings withholding order to your new employer. You should notify the court in writing at: Clerk of the Circuit Court, Post Office Box 970, La Plata, MD 20646. YOU MUST
MAKE THE PAYMENTS YOURSELF UNTIL YOUR NEW EMPLOYER STARTS TO MAKE THE DEDUCTIONS FROM YOUR PAY.
Send your payments to:
Maryland Child Support Account
Post Office Box 17396
Baltimore, MD 21297-1396
Make sure that you put your nine digit case number and “Charles County” on your check or money order.
I want to close my case. What should I do?
If you no longer want the Child Support Enforcement Administration to collect child support for you, send a NOTARIZED STATEMENT to your case specialist stating that you do not want the agency to collect the support and state the date of the change. Be sure to state whether or not you want the agency to collect any arrears that are owed.
Generally closing the agency’s interest in the case will mean that the non-custodial parent will pay child support directly to the custodial parent rather than sending payment through the agency. It will not terminate the support order. Having the support paid directly to the custodial parent protects the child’s right to receive support if the non-custodial parent should fail to live up to his/her obligations to contribute to the support of the child. If either parent wants the agency to begin collecting child support again, she/he will have to re-apply at the local Department of Social Services. The custodial parent will need to complete an Affidavit of Arrears to claim support not paid during the period payments were not made through the agency and until payments start coming through the Maryland Child Support Account again.
My TCA/public assistance case is closed. Will I get my child support?
Yes. You will receive the child support payments as soon as they are received by the agency and distributed to you, unless you have received a TCA payment within that month.
ENFORCING A CHILD SUPPORT ORDER
Who do I contact if I do not receive child support payments?
You should contact the Maryland Call Center if you are not receiving payments as ordered. If payments are being deducted from the obligor’s wages, the employer may wait until the end of the month to send a check to the Maryland Child Support Account.
I received a show cause notice in the mail. What should I do?
You should contact your child support specialist immediately. If you have been notified to come to court because you are behind on your support payment, you may be able to make payment arrangements with your child support specialist before the court date. Your child support specialist has the authority to settle your case before court and excuse your court appearance. Contact the Maryland Call Center at 1-800-332-6347.
How do I change my court date?
If you are unable to appear for a scheduled court date, you should submit a written request to postpone your hearing, clearly stating the reason why you need a different court date. You should include documents to support your request, such as medical information from a doctor or a letter from your employer. Make sure that your request has a phone number where you can be contacted during business hours. Your request needs to be filed with the Court at least three (3) days before your hearing. The Master or Judge will consider your request and you will be contacted if your hearing is postponed.
Do not assume that your request will automatically be granted.
If your request is not granted and you fail to appear, a warrant may be issued for your arrest.
Can the Judge put me in jail if I do not pay my child support on time?
Yes. A Judge could find that you are in contempt of court and incarcerate you for failing to obey a court order requiring you to pay child support.
What will happen if I miss a court date?
Most likely the Court will issue a warrant for your arrest if you fail to appear when notified.
Can I just turn myself in at the Sheriff’s Office?
Yes. You can turn yourself in at the Sheriff’s Office, 24 hours a day, and 7 days a week. You will then be taken to the Detention Center where you will be fingerprinted and photographed. You will be brought before the Judge at the next session of Court.
How do I get someone out of jail that is behind in his/her child support payments?
A purge amount is generally set on the warrant, but it is only good for thirty (30) days from the date of the warrant was issued. If the purge amount is paid, the person will be released. After 30 days has passed, the person will have to go before the Judge for a bond hearing. Once the Judge sets a bond or a new purge amount, it can be paid at the Department of Social Services by certified check, cash or money order only.
I have never missed a payment, Why is there a warrant for my arrest?
If you missed a court date, most likely a warrant will be issued for your arrest. Even if you are up to date on your current payments, there may be other reasons why you were summonsed back to court. For example, a modification may have been requested, or there may be an issue of paying medical expenses for your child.
If my support payments are coming out of my check (wage lien), I won’t have a warrant issued for me, right?
Not always true. It can take several weeks for a wage lien to take effect. If you haven’t made any payments on your own, then your account will be showing an arrearage. You also need to make sure that the correct amount is being deducted from your paycheck, and you need to make sure that the wage lien deductions are getting to your account. You can call 1-800-332-6347 to check on the status of your account. The support payments are your responsibility, not your employers.
If I live in another county, will Charles County arrest me?
You will most likely be arrested by the authorities in the county in which you reside. Charles County officers can go anywhere within Maryland and bring you back to Charles County to see the Judge.
When can I call the Child Support Enforcement Unit of the Charles County Sheriff’s Office?
There will be someone to answer your questions about child support matters between 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday at (301) 932-3057 or (301) 932-3061. You can leave a message after hours.
I lost my job. Do I still have to pay child support?
Yes. Your obligation to your children continues. Your rent payment and your car payment don’t end when you are unemployed, and neither does your child support. If your efforts to find another job are unsuccessful or if your new job pays significantly less money, you may need to request a modification in your child support order. You should contact your child support specialist to discuss your situation.
I am disabled and I can’t work now. Do I still have to pay child support?
Your obligation to pay child support continues until your order is modified by the Court. You should contact your child support specialist and provide him/her with medical information, including reports from your doctor about your ability to work. It may be appropriate for your child support order to be modified temporarily until you are healed and able to return to work. If you are receiving worker’s compensation payments or disability payments, you must continue to pay your child support.
My driver’s license is suspended because I got behind on my child support payments. How am I supposed to get to work?
if you fall behind on your child support payments, your driver’s license will be suspended automatically. If a clear driver’s license is necessary for your job, you may petition the Court in writing to have your driving privilege reinstated. You must provide documentation from your employer. Generally, your license will not be reinstated unless you make a significant payment toward your arrearage.
I gave the custodial parent money last month for school clothes. Shouldn’t that count against my support?
No. The court order requires you to pay your support obligation through the child support agency. Any payments you make to the custodian directly or payments you make to someone else on the child’s behalf are gifts. These gifts do not count against your support but are merely in addition to the support you owe under the court order.
I have a court order to make an additional monthly payment towards the arrearage and I haven’t missed a payment. Why am I receiving notices that my income tax refund will be intercepted and that I will be reported to the credit bureau?
You are doing the right thing by making your payments on time, including a payment toward the arrearage. However, the Child Support Enforcement Administration is required to use all available enforcement tools to collect the arrearage. All child support arrears are due immediately, and you are not fully in compliance until your account has a zero balance. Some of the automated processes which may be used to collect the arrears are: federal and state tax refund intercepts; lottery winnings intercept; credit bureau reporting; garnishment of bank accounts; passport denial/suspension, and driver’s license suspension. These processes are triggered automatically. You must pay the arrears in full to avoid these automated enforcement tools.
I missed some payments and now my employer got a new wage withholding notice requiring an additional deduction from my pay for an arrears payment. How can you do this without a court order?
Maryland law allows the Child Support Enforcement Administration to issue administrative wage withholding notices and the agency has the duty to collect any child support arrears. In addition, the law also authorizes the agency to determine an arrears payment, so long as it is not more than 25% of the current support obligation. For example, if your regular child support payment is $400.00 per month, the arrears payment can be as much as $100.00 per month.
CUSTODY AND VISITATION
Can the Department of Social Services/State’s Attorney’s Office assist me in custody and visitation matters?
No. Those offices are only permitted to deal with issues related to paternity and child support. You can get a referral to a local attorney by calling the Charles County Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service at 301-609-9350. The Charles County Bar Association also offers a free Family Law Clinic every Tuesday in Room 55-B at the courthouse from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The lawyer at the clinic can answer some of your questions about legal matters but cannot represent you in your case. Maryland Volunteer Lawyer’s Service (MVLS) will provide a lawyer to you free of charge if you qualify for their services. If you want to apply to MVLS for a lawyer to represent you, call their office at 1-800-510-0050. If you wish to represent yourself, you may get some family law forms at the office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court. Keep in mind that the clerks cannot give you any legal advice. You may also find some family law forms online at www.courts.state.md.us
The Department of Social Services has some Visitation Guidelines that may help you to communicate better with the other parent about time with the child. A copy of the Visitation Guidelines can be obtained from the State’s Attorney’s Office, or the Master’s Office.
The custodial parent does not let me see the child. Do I have to pay support?
Yes. Regardless of whether you visit the child, the child still needs to be supported. If someone is wrongly withholding visitation, you may be able to file a court case against them. You can contact an attorney to handle your case or you can obtain forms for the Circuit Court Clerk’s Office to file a Petition for Contempt (Denial of Visitation) on your own. Obtaining the advice of an attorney is always recommended.
FIA Frequently Asked Questions
Earned Income -
- Pay Checks from full-time or part-time jobs
- Tips earned on the job
- Money from self-employment
- Owning your own business
Unearned Income -
What should I bring when I apply?
- Child Support Payments
- Social Security Payments
- Unemployment benefits-You may be required to apply if you were recently laid off
- Workmen's Compensation benefits
- Cash contributions to the households, etc.
How long does it take to get benefits if I am eligible?
- Proof of identity (driver’s license, Maryland ID card, etc.)
- Social Security numbers for everyone in the household
- Proof of address (lease, utility bill, etc.)
- Proof of income (recent pay stubs, benefit letters, etc.) for everyone in the entire household
- Proof of household expenses (recent utility bills, child care costs, recent doctor or hospital bills, etc.)
- Within 30 days for most programs
- Within 7 days if eligible for expedited Food Supplement
- The case worker will determine if you are eligible during your interview
- 90 days or more if a disability determination is required