Every child has a right to receive support from both parents even if the parents are separated, divorced, or never married.  Modification orders of child support are best completed with the assistance of an attorney.


Child support is the amount of money that one parent must pay to the custodial parent to maintain expenses for children occurring out of the marriage or relationship.  Child support can be modified in Maryland if there is a substantial change of circumstances.  A substantial change of circumstance means that something changed that will require more or less child support from one parent to another.  Maryland’s General Assembly is reviewing situations that may change child support to more accurately reflect the true cost of raising children.

Income changes.

In Maryland, if one parent’s income has changed (either increased or decreased) by at least 25%, it is usually enough of a change to require a change to the support order. Some parents will request a change if the amount is less than 25% but it may not be accepted by the court.

Changes in children’s needs.

If costs to take care of children increase due to a life event including illness or long-term disability that will incur formidable expenses.  Costs as children get older become more expensive and custodial parents may need more money to cover the increased items such as clothing or activities.

Other legitimate reasons.

Support can be reduced if the paying party has a legitimate reason and they believe the custodial parent does not need as much money – If the custodial parent inherits a sum of money, receives a large raise at work of if there is a loss of job for the person paying the child support.  Changes in circumstances regarding expense of health insurance could occur if the custodial parent gets married, for example, and their new spouse has health insurance benefits that household members can be added to.  This could decrease the amount of child support necessary for the paying party with a deduction amount equal to the insurance amount.


Under some circumstances, when a parent with a child support obligation receives jail time, the parent does not have to pay child support payments. Also, the unpaid child support payments will not accrue arrears (meaning the unpaid payments will not pile up) while the parent is in jail or prison and 60 days after release.  The child support order still exists even while payments are not due.

Changes must be formally addressed with court.

Any changes to child support should be done by filing a formal written motion with the courts and receiving a child support order that matches the agreed upon changes between both parents.  A child support order can be changed once every three years in the State of Maryland, by asking the Child Support Enforcement office to review the child support order for a possible modification.

All requests should be made in writing with a full explanation of why you believe a change is necessary with your signature, date and child support case number referenced.  A motion to modify an existing child support order will subsequently need to be filed with the circuit court.  This can be done with the help of an attorney, or with the direction of the self-help center in circuit court where the forms are located.  In Baltimore City, there are some cases where the motions must be filed with the paternity division of family division of the clerk’s office.

Voluntary impoversihment.

Maryland parents are not allowed to avoid child support payment by purposely not earning enough money which is referred to as “voluntary impoverishment.”  In this case a court can impute or come up with an amount of money they believe should be paid for child support.

Maryland courts do not consider a parent being in jail or prison to be “voluntary impoverishment” unless the parent committed the crime intending to avoid paying child support. Willis v. Jones, 340 Md. 480 (1995).

Seek legal counsel.

Navigating changes or modifications to a child support order can be tricky if parents disagree.  Call the legal professionals at Barkley & Kennedy in Rockville Maryland to help you file the paperwork and answer questions you may have.

Barkley & Kennedy, Chartered

51 Monroe Street, Suite 1407
Rockville, MD 20850
Phone: 301-251-6600
Facsimile: 301-762-2606



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