Financial support is every child’s right and every parent’s obligation. Most parents want their children to live as comfortably as possible and are willing to provide for them even after a divorce. Unfortunately, sometimes parents choose to live in poverty to avoid paying child support. The tactic rarely works as courts can impose child support payments based on the parent’s potential income, not the income they report.

When you are having issues with child support and voluntary impoverishment in Upper Marlboro, contact an experienced family attorney at Carmiece Graves Law. We could help ensure your child receives the financial support they deserve. Our legal team could also support a parent who has legitimate challenges with paying child support who is being unjustly accused of voluntary impoverishment.

Defining Voluntary Impoverishment

Maryland, like most states, determines appropriate child support based on a formula that considers the following factors:

  • Both parents’ incomes;
  • How much time each parent spends with the children;
  • The number of children they have together and other children either parent might be responsible for looking after;

The guidelines apply to parents with combined adjusted annual incomes of $19,200 to $360,000. Parents could reduce the child support they must pay by manipulating their earnings. Some parents stop working and liquidate or even give away their assets to avoid paying support to their children. Maryland Family Code § 12-201q defines voluntary impoverishment, and a court will consider a parent voluntarily impoverished if they make a conscious decision to live without adequate resources.

A judge can consider multiple factors when deciding whether a parent’s poverty is voluntary. They could consider the parent’s age and health, recent work history, the job market in the parent’s field, and other factors when determining whether the parent’s circumstances result from external forces or their own choices. An Upper Marlboro attorney representing a parent in a child support dispute could ensure the judge has all relevant evidence before them for consideration in a voluntary impoverishment claim.

Imputing Income When Poverty Is Voluntary

Because child support obligations depend on income, a person with little or no income might have a small child support payment or none. When an Upper Marlboro judge believes a parent has voluntarily impoverished themselves to avoid paying child support, they can impute income to the parent. That means the judge will try to determine what the parent could be earning and base their child support payment on that amount.

The factors a judge could consider when deciding how much income to impute to a voluntarily impoverished parent include the following:

  • Education;
  • Work history;
  • Physical and mental health;
  • Attempts at finding employment;
  • Past attempts to withhold support;
  • Efforts to secure retraining, if necessary;
  • Assets and other potential sources of income;
  • Job market in the place where the parent lives;

A judge could also consider how soon after the separation the parent became impoverished. The parent’s earnings before the separation are often persuasive when a judge estimates potential income. However, the judge will assess prevailing conditions when considering the matter.

When a Parent Might Escape Child Support

Although children have a right to their parent’s financial support, sometimes judges do not order a parent to pay for it. This is unusual but can occur when circumstances merit it. For example, caring for a child under two is considered a full-time job. A parent with primary responsibility for a child under two will not be considered voluntarily impoverished. Similarly, a parent who can prove a physical or emotional disability might not be capable of working full-time. Incarceration for a substantial period also could prevent a parent from paying child support.

When a financial inability to pay is involuntary or temporary, a judge could modify a child support order in Upper Marlboro. For example, temporary unemployment might prevent a parent from paying. A judge could order a reduced payment until the parent secures employment, but the parent would be expected to pay any arrears accumulated while unemployed.

Contact an Upper Marlboro Attorney if Voluntary Impoverishment Is Affecting Child Support

When a judge believes someone has voluntarily impoverished themselves to reduce child support, they can assess an obligation based on potential earnings, regardless of how much the parent is earning. If voluntary impoverishment is an issue in a child support dispute, a diligent attorney from Carmiece Graves Law could help.

Child support and voluntary impoverishment in Upper Marlboro and Largo are complicated issues; you will need skilled legal representation. Call our law firm today to schedule an initial consultation to discuss your circumstances.