As a starting point, the state of Maryland coordinates a statewide program for enforcing child support orders. Maryland law calls for a central registry of records, which documents absent parents. Additionally, Maryland law calls for the location of absent parents. Once located, Maryland determines the ability of the parent to pay child support as ordered. Maryland may also collect and disburse child support under this law. Finally, the statute authorizes the state of Maryland to use established legal processes to enforce previously ordered child support.
Collateral Consequences for Failure to Pay Child Support
Consumer Reporting Agencies
Once a child support obligation goes unpaid for 60 days or more, an obligor faces potential reporting of the arrears (the amount owed) to consumer reporting agencies. First, the state of Maryland will attempt to contact the payor in writing, letting them know of this possibility. The payor has the opportunity to contest the accuracy of the reported arrearage. After notice and any response, if the payor reamins in arrears, the state of Maryland makes this information available to consumer reporting agencies on request.
If information has been reported in error, this can be corrected. Once the state of Maryland notifies a consumer reporting agency of the error, the consumer reporting agency must remove the faulty information from an obligor’s credit file.
Loss of Driving Privileges
Where an obligor is 60 or more days in arrears, the obligor faces potential driver’s license suspension. The state of Maryland provides for such a suspension if certain conditions exist. First, they must notify the obligor about the potential suspension. The obligor may challenge the decision by requesting an investigation. Investigations may focus on the accuracy of the amount due, the impact a suspension might have on employment, or undue hardship.
The state of Maryland may issue a work permit to an obligor during the suspension. This allows the individual to continue to work while they catch up on their back support. Once the obligor brings support obligations current, or meets other conditions pursuant to statute, reinstatement of the driving license privileges can occur.
Suspension or Denial of Professional License
Where someone is in arrears, the state of Maryland may suspend or deny application for a professional license. Licenses issued by the following Maryland agencies may be subject to suspension, revocation, forfeiture, or termination:
- Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation;
- Department of Health and Mental Hygiene;
- Comptroller of the Treasury;
- Department of Human Resources;
- Department of Transportation;
- Maryland Insurance Administration;
- Department of the Environment;
- Department of Agriculture;
- Public Service Commission;
- Secretary of State;
- State Department of Education;
- Office of the Attorney General; and
- the Court of Appeals.
Suspension or Denial of Hunting or Fishing License
In addition to suspending a professional license, the state of Maryland may suspend a hunting or fishing license, or deny an application for a hunting or fishing license, if one is in arrears in child support. License suspension can occur when an obligor is 120 days or more in arrears.
Garnishment for Payment of a Child Support Obligation
Where a child support obligation exceeds 60 days or more past due, and the amount owed exceeds $500, the state of Maryland allows “garnishment” (or “taking”) money in a bank account for the child support owed, under certain circumstances. Before the state can do this, the law requires the obligor be notified (at their last known address) such action may be taken.
Just as with the potential reporting to consumer reporting agencies, an individual has the opportunity to challenge the action proposed by the financial institution. There are very specific requirements which must be met for a successful challenge or subsequent appeal.
In certain situations, the state of Maryland “intercepts” (or “takes”) money otherwise owed to the obligor.
Income Tax Intercepts
If the state meets certain circumstances, and the amount owed is $150 or more, the state of Maryland may take money otherwise owed to the obligor. First, the state must “certify” the amount of arrearage. Next, the obligor has the right to dispute the certification under two alternate conditions. The alleged obligor can challenge his purported obligation. While it doesn’t happen often, sometimes the state identifies the wrong person in the certification. When the state identifies the right person, but the obligor disputes the amount owed, the obligor may also challenge the certification.
Once certified, the state will take from the tax return the amount owed in child support. The state sends any balance remaining to the obligor. Sometimes, an obligor failed to receive the original notice of certification. The notification their tax return has been reduced by the amount owed may be the first they learn of the certification. Even at this stage, an obligor (or, in some cases, the alleged obligor) has the right to appeal the decision.
State Lottery Prizes
Just as with tax returns, the law provides the state of Maryland may, where certain conditions have been met, take state lottery prizes won by an obligor. The state may also take a portion of such a prize, where a portion will satisfy the amount the obligor owes in child support. Just as with income tax intercepts, certain conditions must be met before the state may take these winnings. Additionally, just as with income tax intercepts, the obligor, or alleged obligor, has the right to challenge the certification or appeal the decision to certify. Lottery winners have an extremely short time within which to file an appeal.
If You Have Concerns about Child Support
If you have concerns about a child support order, contact the lawyers at Fait & DiLima. Whether you are owed child support, or are seeking to catch up on past due support, our family law lawyers in Rockville and Fredrick, Maryland, have the experience and ability to assist you in your case.