When parents live separately, the burden of providing children with housing, clothing, food, and other necessities of life could fall disproportionately on the custodial parent. To prevent children from suffering a change in lifestyle if their parents separate or divorce, a parent who cares for the children most of the time is usually entitled to child support.

If you are separating or divorcing, you must make a formal arrangement with your spouse or the other parent regarding child support. If you are a mother who was never married to your co-parent, you can seek child support from the child’s father, as they are required to provide for their children by state law.

Calculating appropriate child support can be complicated and often triggers difficult emotions. A Silver Spring child support lawyer could help couples negotiate a satisfactory child support agreement. The proactive family attorneys at our firm could also assist with legal actions to collect delinquent child support payments and petitions to modify a child support order due to changed circumstances.

Child Support Is a Child’s Right

Some paying parents think of child support as money they must pay to a custodial parent as the price of ending a marriage or a relationship. However, neither parent has a right to child support. The law asserts that a child is entitled to benefit from the standard of living their parents’ combined income can provide, even if the child lives with only one parent. The right to child support belongs exclusively to a child.

The state of Maryland’s child support guidelines estimates the percentage of combined income a couple living together would spend on their children. The guidelines consider factors such as:

  • Each couple’s gross income
  • The number of children each parent supports
  • The nights each child sleeps at the parent’s house
  • Who provides health insurance
  • Who pays for work related child care

Usually, but not always, the parent who houses the child most of the time receives child support from the other parent.

A law that took effect on July 1, 2022, allows a court to issue a “no support” order if the child lives with the parent who would pay child support and that parent contributes to the expenses of raising the child. The law also allows a court to issue a no support order if a parent lacks the resources to pay due to any of the following reasons:

  • Incarceration
  • Institutionalization in a psychiatric facility
  • Disability
  • Unemployment but not voluntarily impoverished
  • Other long-term conditions

However, if a parent later becomes able to pay, the other parent could seek a modification of the no support order to start receiving child support payments.

Child Support and Unmarried Parents

When parents are unmarried, they must follow a few additional procedures to arrange child support.

An unmarried woman seeking child support must prove that the man from whom she seeks support is her child’s father. A man could admit paternity in court or sign an Acknowledgement of Parentage form that is usually presented at the hospital after a birth. In some cases, a court will require a DNA test to establish proof of paternity. A well-practiced Silver Spring child support attorney could help an unmarried parent establish their child’s paternity.

Once paternity is established, the father is obliged to provide financial support. The father must do so even if he has no relationship with the child. In most cases, acknowledging paternity also gives the father the right to request visitation with the child, whether such visitation is granted is up to the court to decide in the best interest of the child.

Child Support Agreements Must Be in Child’s Best Interests

Many parents avoid leaving child support determinations to the courts by making their own arrangements. Using the state guidelines as a framework, parents can tailor their child support agreements to their family’s particular circumstances.

Child support typically ends when a child either graduates from high school or turns 18, whichever is later, but no later then 19. However, parents who expect their children to attend college might agree on how they will handle tuition or other expenses in advance. A parents’ agreement could cover who provides medical insurance, who handles copayments, as well as who pays for vacations and extracurricular activities.

Mediation often helps a couple establish a child support agreement acceptable to both parties. In other cases, an experienced child support lawyer in Silver Spring could guide a couple’s negotiations. Though, ultimately, all child support agreements are subject to court approval.

Seek Assistance from a Silver Spring Child Support Attorney

If you and your child’s co-parent are living apart, you must both contribute toward the cost of raising the child. That is every parent’s obligation until the child reaches legal adulthood.

A Silver Spring child support lawyer could help you understand the state’s complex laws surrounding parenting time and visitation. With their counsel, you could reach an agreement that is workable for your family. Reach out to discuss your child support arrangement with a local attorney.