Establishing the Custodial Parent

Interviewer: When you mentioned custodial parent; who is the custodial parent? What does that mean?

Anitha Johnson: A custodial parent is the parent who has primary custody and physical custody of the child. They are referred to as the custodial parent. They have physical custody.

Interviewer: It’s not always the mother that’s getting child support. It could be where the father is the custodial parent and the father may be receiving child support in some cases.

Can an Individual Other Than a Parent File to Receive Child Support?

Who may file a petition for child support?

It Can Be More Challenging to File for a Third Party to Receive Support but It Is Legally Possible

Anitha Johnson: It’s harder if someone other than the biological parent files. A grandmother can file as well as anyone who can prove that it would be in the child’s best interests to be with them. They would need to provide a compelling reason as to why the child should not be with the parents. Obviously, anytime there’s a third party it makes it much harder.

Why Is It Important to Retain an Attorney When Filing for Child Support and Custody?

Interviewer: Why, with child support specifically, do parties need to be represented by lawyers? Why is it important to have a lawyer represent someone here?

It Is Important to Be Apprised of the Different Factors the Courts Take into Consideration

Anitha Johnson: It’s important because lawyers typically know what evidence is necessary, how to obtain the evidence, and how best to advise the party. Custody is very complicated. There are so many different factors and circumstances in which the court would consider, and custody is very important.

You have a lot to lose and having custody of your child is very important. Having someone who is familiar with all the laws and factors the court would consider in issuing child support provides you with an advantage.

Out-of-State Custodial Parents Can File for Child Support

Interviewer: What if a custodial parent lives outside of the state?

Anitha Johnson: It doesn’t matter. Child support enforcement works together in all states. You can file an action in Maryland or file an action in the state where your child lives and that state would then transfer it to the office of child support in the corresponding state where the non-custodian parent lives. They can enforce it that way.

Interviewer: What’s the difference between child support and alimony/spousal support?

Anitha Johnson: Child support is for the child, alimony is spousal support.

Interviewer: Can they receive both alimony and child support?

Anitha Johnson: Yeah because child support is for the child and alimony is for the support of the spouse.

Can the Paying Parent Designate How Child Support Is Spent?

Interviewer: What if a parent who’s paying child support feels that he or she has been paying child support to the custodial parent but feels that the money hasn’t been utilized as it is supposed to be used?

The Courts Will Not Examine How Child Support Is Being spent as long as the Child’s Needs Are Being Met

Anitha Johnson: No. Many people can have their opinion, but the court generally doesn’t look into how the custodial parent is spending the money. As long as the child is healthy and the child is being fed, and the child’s welfare is not affected the court generally doesn’t analyze how a custodial parent is spending money.

If the Parent Receiving Child Support Has a Rise in Income, the Paying Parent Can File for a Modification

Interviewer: What if the custodial parent starts earning a lot more than the parent that’s paying child support? Maybe they get a promotion or they land a high paying job, what happens in that set of circumstances?

Anitha Johnson: Nothing automatically happens, but if a party finds a factor that has changed can seek a modification. They can seek a reduction in child support based on the other party making more money or the expenses decreasing.

They can receive a reduction. They can file a motion to modify based on an increase in the other party’s income. If it’s the non-custodial parent then the custodial parent will file a motion for modification seeking an increase in child support.

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