How to File Child Support - 7 Steps to Get It Done

Editor's Note: This week we are revisiting posts and topics that are still relevant and important today.

 

Child support gets worked out during separation or divorce. But, what if the couple were never married, or the child is in the custody of anyone other than a parent?

Who Files for Child Support Payments?

In Maryland, anyone with “custodial rights” to a child can file an application for child support.

After all, that money technically goes to the child – or is spent on behalf of the child by their parent or guardian.

Therefore, the person who houses the child is the one who needs the funds for their care and support.

So, Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, aunts and uncles – even foster parents can file for child support from the child’s parents if they have primary physical custody of a child.

The 7 Steps to Receiving Child Support

If there is currently no legal document in place determining child support, then there are seven steps to apply for and receive child support in Maryland.

  1. The Application
  2. The Financial Statement
  3. Filing and Fees
  4. Serving Paperwork
  5. Requesting a Default Ruling
  6. Requesting a Hearing
  7. The Final Hearing

Step 1: Complete the Child Support Application

First off, fill out the right form! You’ll start with the Application for Support Enforcement Services, which is the basic initial form that says that you need child support for this child, from this person, for this reason.

Step 2: Fill Out Financial Statement

You won’t stop with the initial application, though! The next form you’ll fill out is a financial statement form.

The information on this form helps the court determine whether and how much support is needed for the child in question.

Step 3: File Forms and Pay Filing Fee

Next, take the two forms to the Clerk of Court at the local county circuit court and file them. Expect to pay a filing fee.

(The fee may be waived if less than $3,500 in support gets paid in 12 months, or a filer receives Temporary Cash Assistance.)

Step 4: Serve Person Who is Being Asked to Pay

After the forms are filed and fee paid, the person being asked to pay child support needs official notification of your application for support services.

That means all papers and a Writ of Summons from the court must be properly “served” – officially delivered – to the other party.

You cannot serve these papers yourself. Maryland requires someone other than the plaintiff (the person who asked for support) to serve the defendant (the person who will pay the support).

To serve a person with papers, you could:

    • Send them through certified mail, though you’ll need someone other than the plaintiff to actually mail them;
    • Hire a private process server; or
    • Request local law enforcement hand-deliver the documents.

For the papers to be officially served, you’ll typically need some sort of proof of receipt, such as certified mail receipt or an Affidavit of Service

Step 5: Request for A Default Ruling If No Answer Filed

Once the forms are filed and the defendant served, there is a waiting period for a response to the application for child support.

Where defendant was served: Time allowed for response:
In Maryland 30 days after being served
Out of state 60 days after being served
Out of country 90 days after being served
If the defendant submits no answer to the court in response to the request for support, then the plaintiff may file a Request for Order of Default.
 
Typically, with no response from the defendant, the court rules in favor of the plaintiff by default and officially orders the child support from the defendant to the plaintiff.
 

Step 6: Request Hearing or Proceeding

When a defendant does respond to the application for child support, the next step is seeing a judge. The plaintiff will need to formally request a hearing or proceeding before a family judge from the proper court.

Remember: Just filing the paperwork does not automatically get a person into the courtroom. By making the request a hearing gets scheduled by the court.

Step 7: Win the Hearing or Trial

Finally, trial or hearing time arrives. At this point, the plaintiff must bring a completed Child Support Guidelines Worksheet to court.

The worksheet includes income and expenses of both parties involved, to help the court determine if and how much child support will be paid.

All sources of income need accounted for on the worksheet, from stock dividends to rental income to tips.

At the end of the proceedings, a judge will rule for or against child support. At that point, the child support order will be a formal court order – meaning that it has the full weight of the Maryland legal system behind it, requiring it to be fulfilled.

How A Family Lawyer Helps in Child Support Cases

A lawyer is not needed to file for child support, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have someone take you through the process.

After all, they do this all the time! They will know what’s important, what’s not, and how to make the best case before the judge for you and your child.

Contact JC Law for a free initial consultation of your child support matter. We’ll help you keep the focus on your child’s best interest – not your ex’s whining about income.

[CHECKLIST] If you need a family lawyer or domestic legal counsel in Maryland, learn the 8 questions you must ask before retaining.