Can Parents Stop Paying Child Support for These Reasons?

When parents are ordered to pay child support as a part of a paternity or divorce action, there’s often a lot they still don’t know about how child support works in Maryland. Each state has different laws about child support, so it’s wise for noncustodial parents to become very familiar with their state’s laws. If a parent has confusion about the law, it can lead to adverse consequences, such as driver’s license suspension, wage garnishment, bank levies, and other unwanted effects from the failure to pay.

“Are there any circumstances where a noncustodial parent can avoid paying child support?” is a question that noncustodial parents have from time to time. For instance, what about unemployment? Do payments automatically stop when a parent loses their job? What about incarceration? Do incarcerated parents still have to pay child support? In this article, we explain whether child support can stop temporarily under any circumstances.

Parents Are Obligated to Pay Child Support

Under Maryland law, noncustodial parents are expected to pay child support until their child reaches 18, or they may have to pay until their child turns 19 if he or she is still in high school. Child support can also be extended if the child became physically or mentally disabled before their 18th birthday and the child cannot support themselves or live alone.

If the parent falls behind on child support, the local child support agency can collect indefinitely, even well after the child turns 18 or 21. Essentially, child support arrears cannot be discharged in Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy; it can and will be collected until it’s paid in full, even if it takes years.

Collecting Child Support

As we mentioned earlier, parents have to pay child support until their child turns 18 or 19 in Maryland, depending on their high school enrollment. A parent’s obligation to financially support their child does not end if the parent becomes unemployed, disabled, terminally ill, mentally ill, or even incarcerated. The only way a parent can be relieved of supporting their minor children is if his or her parental rights are terminated.

If a parent is unemployed or disabled, they still have to pay child support. Child support can be taken from:

  • Unemployment Benefits
  • Social Security Disability Benefits
  • Workers’ Compensation

Note: Child support cannot be taken from Supplemental Security Income (SSI), so this is the one benefit that is untouchable. Even still, a parent receiving SSI is expected to pay child support, however, their SSI benefits cannot be forcibly taken.

If you cannot afford your child support payments for some reason, it’s critical that you petition the court for a downward modification immediately. Child support is not retroactive, so there is no way to ask the court to go back and reduce the amount you owe from the date that you experienced a material change in circumstances.

For professional legal assistance with a child support matter, contact the Law Office of Nicholas T. Exarhakis today.

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