O’Malley signs off on child support revision

By Nick DiMarco

Most child support payments in the state will be eligible to go up in October, under a law approved Tuesday by Gov. Martin O’Malley.

Payments have been increased in what advocates called an attempt to reflect modern costs of living. The payment awards have not been changed since 1988.

“If you’re a custodial parent, you’re going to be a happy person,” Sen. President Mike Miller, D-Calvert and Prince George’s, said before the bill signing.

The bill was the subject of intense debate in the Senate and only narrowly passed both chambers after a last-minute compromise on the final day of the legislative session.

The law takes into account parents’ combined monthly income from up to $15,000, though the original proposal would have doubled that. The change in law is not grounds by itself for an increase. Parents must demonstrate that their financial circumstances have changed significantly in order for judges to reconsider payment plans.

Throughout the session, lawmakers voiced concerns about parents flooding court rooms, seeking to have their payments modified.

“Those who are currently receiving child support won’t feel immediate relief, but it sets in motion a new scale to judge child support that is more closely aligned to what it takes to raise a child,” said Brenda Donald, secretary of the Department of Human Resources.

Court judges are not bound to the guidelines, although according to trial lawyers who serve as lawmakers, judges seldom deviate from the recommended scheduling.

As the bill was announced Tuesday morning, advocates and sponsors cheered as they took their place behind Gov. O’Malley for photos. It was one the few bills to receive vocal praise on the day, aside from changes to sex offender laws.

“It’s a tremendous relief,” said Donald.

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