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Seven Commonly Accepted Myths About Child Support

By Amar S. Weisman, Esquire

Myth #1: Child support belongs to the parent who has primary physical custody.

Just as an IV does not belong to the nurse who inserts the needle into the patient, child support does not belong to the custodial parent who uses the money to provide for the child.Child support belongs to the child.

Myth #2: A parent who does not have custody can avoid cchild support by getting the parent with custody to just “agree.”

The highest court in the state of Maryland recently held that, “the duty to support one’s minor children may not be bargained away or waived.” In other words, the prevailing policy is to insist that all parents provide monetarychild support to their children, regardless of whatever “understandings” they would otherwise develop.

Myth #3: If a parent does not get to see the child, he does not have to pay child support.

There are appropriate forms of judicial redress for parents who are denied court-ordered visitation, but an aggrieved parent cannot punish the child by withholding support. It is always a good idea to appreciate the difference between child custody and child support.

Myth #4: A parent may easily reduce his child support obligation by intentionally earning less money.

If evidence is properly presented to the court that a parent is earning less money just to reduce his child support obligation, the court will determine what the parent would have made if he had actually applied himself and calculate child support based on that theoretical figure, instead of actual earnings.

Myth #5: Salary alone determines a parent’s child support obligation.

The law recognizes that monetary earnings come in many forms other than plain-old salaries for plain-old jobs. Recognized earnings include gifts received from others, capital gains, severance pay, prizes, gambling winnings, bonuses, commissions, social security benefits, interest income, annuity income, unemployment benefits, and trust income.

Myth #6: Parents never have a child support obligation after the child turns eighteen.

Sometimes a child support obligation will extent long after the child’s eighteenth birthday. In Maryland, parents are required by law to support “adult destitute children,” or children who cannot provide food, shelter, clothing and care for themselves, provided the parent is able to do so. Therefore, parents whose children have serious illnesses that make personal autonomy impossible, like Down’s Syndrome, severe autism, and serious mental retardation, could pay child support long after the child’s eighteenth birthday.

Myth #7: Parents cannot be forced to pay for private school.

The child support guidelines allow the court to increase child support beyond the standard guidelines for, “particular educational needs.” Often this type of award is given to a child who attended private school during the years prior to divorce. The rationale, as articulated by the Maryland Court of Appeals, is that, “a child’s standard of living should be altered as little as possible by the dissolution of the family.

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