FAQ: Maryland Child Support

Maryland child Support: Get Free Legal Advice by EmailThis section of the Maryland Divorce Guide is designed to assist you with questions about Maryland Child Support, Child Support Modification, and Child Support Enforcement.

MD Child Support Checklist

1. Where should I file my complaint for child support? Is the Domicile of the Child in Maryland and in this County?

You should file your complaint for child support in the state and county that is the domicile of the child. A person may only have one domicile. A child’s domicile is the place where the child has his/her true, fixed and permanent home.

Yes – Party may file in this county.

No – Party must file in the proper state/county.

Md. Fam. Law Code Ann. §1-201 – the equity court has continuing jurisdiction over the support of the child. The parties need not be married and support can be sought by guardian of the child.

2. Is the action between the natural parents or is a third party involved?

A. If Natural Parents Only – Continue to #3.

B. If there is a Third Party Involved, does the Third Party have an existing Guardianship Order for the child?

Yes – Party may file complaint for Child Support against natural parents. Go to #3

No – In order for a third party to receive an award of support from a child’s natural parents, they should file a Petition for Guardianship and Support.

3. Is there a dispute as to paternity?

Yes – If father denies and mother is seeking child support go to local child support enforcement agency (Domestic Relations in Anne Arundel/CSB in Baltimore City/CSE in Montgomery County) unless you want to file yourself pro se or be represented by counsel. There are no pro se forms for establishing paternity. Establishing paternity is usually beyond the capability of a pro se litigant because it involves the introduction of evidence which is beyond what can be expected of a pro se litigant.

No – Go to #4.

4. Is there an existing Custody/Visitation Order?

Yes – Go to #5.

No – If there is no existing Custody/Visitation Order, then: File a Complaint for Custody DR4. This is advisable because child support will be addressed by the court in the Custody case. While the parties may be amicable now, a Custody Order is valuable if the parties disagree later. If you do not wish to pursue custody, go to #5.

5. Is there a current Child Support Order?

Yes – Are the parties complying with the order?

Yes – Unless there is a substantial change in circumstances, there is not much chance of changing your child support obligation.

What is a substantial change depends on the court’s determination. Modification will not be granted absent a showing of a “clearly indicated change in Circumstances, need and pecuniary condition of the parties” Langrell v. Langrell, 145 Md. 340 (1924).

No standard percentage increase in expenses and income has been held to meet the “substantial change” requirement. However, the Courts have generally agreed that a greater than 25% difference is a substantial change.

If there is a substantial change, then file Motion to Modify Child Support with Financial Statement (Dom Rel 31).

If there is a Child Support Enforcement Order issued Call the Child Support Enforcement Agency to determine if they are required to enforce the order because sometimes CSE will act as a collector/distributor.

If CSE is required to enforce order, request they do so. They may require you to do this in writing. Even if they don’t require it to be in writing, it is best if you send them a letter. Keep copies all letters sent. Take notes on all your phone conversations; be sure to include the date, time and name of the person you spoke with.

If CSE is merely a collector/distributor continue as if no Order had been issued.

If No Child Support Enforcement Order Has Been Issued:

File the following documents:

  • Petition/Motion for Contempt
  • Blank Show Cause Order
  • Blank Earnings Withholding Order

You can have an attorney from the local Child Support Enforcement Agency represent you in a child support action even if you are not on AFDC (welfare) by paying $20.00 to the agency and requesting assignment of an attorney. However, you may find that going through the Child Support Enforcement Agency takes longer than representing yourself as a pro se litigant because of the Agency’s Backlog.

If you are on AFDC or gets money from Social Services you must go to the Child Support Enforcement Agency to get the order enforced. Go to #7.

6. If no Child Support Order Has Been Issued and the parties cannot agree to a set amount for child support follow these steps.

Alternative #1: You can have an attorney from the local Child Support Enforcement Agency represent you in a child support action even if you are not on AFDC (welfare) by paying $20.00 to the agency and requesting assignment of an attorney. However, you may find that going through the Child Support Enforcement Agency takes longer than representing yourself as a pro se litigant because of the Agency’s Backlog.

Alternative #2: File the complaint yourself and turn the Child Support Order over to the Child Support Agency for collection.

Alternative #3: File the Complaint for Child Support yourself and attempt collection yourself through the courts directly after you receive a child support order.

7. Are you familiar with the Maryland Child Support Guidelines?

The Maryland Child Support Guidelines are established by Maryland statute and have been established so that the parties has realistic expectations of the potential support award. In almost all circumstances the parties cannot agree to a lesser amount than is required by the Maryland Child Support Guidelines. If you and your spouse are filing for an uncontested divorce and you have children you must also complete the Child Support Worksheet and Financial Statements and bring them to the hearing. Your Child Support Worksheet must show that child support payments meet the minimum standards required by the Maryland Child Support Guidelines.