Maryland Now Allows Parents to Go After Workers’ Compensation Settlements

New legislation out of the Senate now subjects a portion of workers’ compensation and personal injury awards to child support arrearages.

Senate Bill 71 proposes that a portion of the net recovery obtained by workers’ compensation and personal injury claimants be eligible for execution in cases involving outstanding child support obligations. The term “net recovery” refers to the funds received by a claimant in workers’ compensation cases after accounting for deductions, including attorney fees, expenses, medical bills, and any existing liens or outstanding claims related to personal injury.

What are child support arrearages?

Child support arrearages refer to the unpaid or overdue child support payments owed by a noncustodial parent to the custodial parent (or the state agency) responsible for administering child support enforcement. These arrearages can accumulate over time, especially when the noncustodial parent fails to make the required child support payments as ordered by the court.

Child support is a legal obligation intended to provide financial assistance to a custodial parent in raising and supporting their child or children. When a court determines child support payments, it considers a variety of factors, including the noncustodial parent’s income, the child’s needs, and the standard of living the child would have enjoyed if the parents were living together.

Child support arrearages can be emotionally and financially challenging for both parents involved and, more importantly, for the children who rely on that support. Noncustodial parents need to communicate with the custodial parent and, if necessary, seek legal assistance to address arrearages. If appropriate, they can request a modification of the child support order based on their changed circumstances. At the end of the day, meeting child support obligations is essential for the well-being of the child or children involved.

What should I do if my co-parent owes me child support?

If your co-parent owes you child support and is not making the required payments, you may find yourself in a frustrating situation. Our attorneys offer this step-by-step guide on what to do:

  • Open communication. Start by communicating with your co-parent about the missed payments. Sometimes, financial difficulties or misunderstandings can lead to missed payments. Initiate a respectful and open conversation to understand their perspective and explore possible solutions. It’s important to keep the lines of communication open to resolve the issue amicably if possible.
  • Review your child support order. Carefully review the child support order issued by the court. Ensure that the amount and payment schedule are accurate and up-to-date. If there have been significant changes in either parent’s financial situation or the child’s needs, you may consider seeking a modification of the child support order through the court. A modification can adjust the child support payments to better reflect the current circumstances.
  • Document missed payments. Keep detailed records of all missed child support payments. Maintain a record that includes dates, amounts, and any communication with your co-parent regarding the missed payments. Having this documentation is essential if you need to pursue legal action to enforce child support payments.
  • Contact Maryland’s child support enforcement agency. If open communication and discussions with your co-parent do not lead to a resolution, consider contacting the Maryland Department of Human Services at 1-800-332-6347 (TTY 1-800-735-2258) if you are not receiving payments as ordered. They have tools and resources to help enforce child support orders. They can initiate actions such as wage garnishment, intercepting tax refunds, suspending driver’s licenses, and even pursuing legal action to collect past-due support.
  • Consult with an attorney. If the situation remains unresolved, go ahead and consult with a family law attorney with experience in child support matters. The attorneys here at McCabe Russell can provide guidance on your legal rights and options, help you navigate the legal process, and represent your interests in court if necessary.
  • File a motion for contempt. In cases where your co-parent consistently refuses to pay child support despite a court order, you may need to file a motion for contempt with the court. Our attorneys can take legal action to compel your co-parent to comply with the court’s order, and if they still do not comply, they may face penalties, such as fines or even imprisonment. With the passage of SB 71, even workers’ compensation settlements can be garnished for child support arrearages.
  • Consider mediation. In some situations, mediation with a neutral third party may be a helpful alternative to court proceedings. Mediation can allow both parents to reach an agreement on child support payments and other related issues while avoiding the adversarial nature of a court battle.

It is important to remember that child support is a legal obligation, and both parents are expected to fulfill their responsibilities. If your co-parent owes you child support, taking the appropriate steps to address the issue through legal channels can help ensure the financial well-being of your child and provide you with the support you need to care for them. Consulting with legal professionals and agencies experienced in child support enforcement is often the most effective way to resolve these matters.

The family law attorneys at McCabe Russell are here to help if you are having issues with your child support. Whether you owe or whether you need to take legal action against your co-parent, we have years of experience helping children and families just like yours. To schedule an appointment or consultation, call our offices or fill out our contact form. We are proud to serve clients in Fulton, Bethesda, Rockville, and Columbia.