Child Support Is Also Ordered When Unmarried Couples Separate

Interviewer: What about for individuals who have children together but have not gotten married? How would that work?

Anitha Johnson: That’s what child support is. You can collect child support. It has nothing to do with marriage. It just has to do with whether it’s your child. If the person is unsure they can request a paternity test, if it’s the father, request a paternity test. It doesn’t have anything to do with whether you’re married to the mother.

In Maryland, Child Support Payments Are Not Retroactive

Interviewer: What about back pay? Let’s say child support had not been collected for a certain amount of time and an individual decides, “Hey, you know, I feel like I’m entitled to child support at this point because the person hasn’t been here for a couple of years.” Does that exist?

Anitha Johnson: In Maryland no, because child support is not retroactive, meaning you can’t make a claim to child support before you’ve ever filed a written request for child support. Child support is only retroactive to the date that you filed a motion for child support or a complaint for child support.

In DC, the Courts May Order Child Support Retroactively

That’s in Maryland. In DC the court can order child support retroactively. It’s discretionary.

If a Child Support Payment Needs to Be Modified, It Is Important to File as Soon as Possible

Interviewer: In a situation where if I were a parent and I was paying child support, and something happened like I lost my job, could I adjust my child support?

Anitha Johnson: Yes. The important thing is that as soon as there is a change of circumstance as far as income or any important circumstance that would affect child support, it’s important that you file it as soon as possible. Because as I stated, you can only get a modification retroactive until the date that it was filed.

If, for instance, someone lost their job and they do not file a modification, and a year passes, they are going to be responsible for all the child support that accrued during that year.

But if they filed the motion to modify within that time when the court determines that they were not employed, the court can modify the child support back to the date where they first filed. That way they would have less accrual of child support.

Child Support Payments Can Be Garnished from Paychecks and Tax Refunds

Interviewer: How is child support enforced?

Anitha Johnson: It can be enforced from pay.  It can be garnished from your taxes, your IRS tax returns. They can suspend your license. They can also put you in jail.

Refusal to Pay Child Support Can Result in a Jail Sentence

Interviewer: At what point would someone go to jail? What would it take for someone to go to jail?

Anitha Johnson: Someone can be incarcerated if the court determines that they have the ability to pay and they’re refusing to pay.

Interviewer: I have heard of cases that are referred to as mistaken paternity. What happens with those kinds of cases because the party has already paid child support?

Waiting Too Long to Establish Paternity Can Result in an Individual Being Deemed as the Father by the Court

Anitha Johnson: The child support was paid for the child. Once you pay for the child it’s not likely that the court would order it to be reversed. The issue is that paternity test should be requested as soon as possible.

This is because in some cases if they’ve waited too long then it can be waived, meaning you are already deemed to be the father. This is due to the fact you haven’t challenged it for a certain period of time, then it can make it difficult to suddenly decide to challenge it.

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