No. Child support obligations are based on the Order issued by the Maryland or District of Columbia divorce court. That court order has the force of law. The Order can and will be enforced by the relevant court in contempt or other types of proceedings. Further, the amount of child support payments is set by the divorce and family law statutes of Maryland and D.C.
The Maryland and D.C. divorce attorneys at The Law Offices of Thomas Stahl explain more on this below.
Generally, unless there is some legitimate and compelling reason to deviate from the statutory Guidelines, the amount required by statute is the amount of child support payments that must be paid. In other words, the amount to be paid is set by law, and the parents/ex-spouses cannot change the law by agreement.
Having said that, what the statutes of Maryland and D.C. require in terms of child support payments can change. The amount the law requires depends on the combined income of the parents. Thus, if a parent loses his or her job and has no income for a while (or lesser income long-term), then the statutory Guidelines will provide for lower child support payments. However, there is still the court’s Order that must be obeyed. Thus, even if changes in income allow for less child support to be paid according to the statutes before lesser payments can be made, the court must modify its child support payment Order. The ex-spouses cannot agree to that, and even if they did agree, that agreement is unenforceable in Maryland and D.C.
What can be done? If there has been a drop in income, the solution is to file papers in the Maryland or D.C. divorce court seeking a modification of the child support payment Order. If your ex-spouse is in agreement, then the request for modification will go more smoothly. But, your ex-spouse’s agreement is not binding on the court. The court is bound by the statutory Guidelines, and the court will evaluate income and other factors. On the basis of those factors, the court will make a decision about modifying the child support payment Order.
It should be noted that there is another danger for a spouse who is paying child support. As said above, the spouses cannot agree to reduce child support payments, and any such agreement will be unenforceable. Importantly, the payment-receiving spouse can try and collect unpaid child support for many years after the payments are due. So, the paying spouse exposes him- or herself to the risk that the other spouse will seek to recover the child support arrears. That can be financially painful years down the line, involving not only unpaid child support but also interest, penalties, court costs, attorneys’ fees, and more.
In short, you cannot lower your child support payments even if your ex-spouse agrees. AND you should not want to. Get a modification of the court’s Order. That is the correct legal method and protects the paying spouse.
Maryland And D.C. Family Law Attorneys
Contact the seasoned and experienced Maryland and D.C. family law lawyers at The Law Offices of Thomas Stahl for more information. We have the skills and expertise you need. We have proven experience with family law for Maryland and the District of Columbia. Schedule a consultation today or call us at (410) 696-4326 or (202) 964-7280. We have offices in Columbia, MD, and Washington, DC.