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Voluntary Impoverishment As A Means Of Avoiding Child Support Payments


Divorce is an emotional affair and sometimes, those feelings careen out of control. A parent may seek to voluntarily impoverish themselves as a means of avoiding child support payments just to “stick it to” the other party. Regardless of their efforts, parents are required to pay child support payments to the custodial spouse. In this article, the Maryland child support lawyers at Schlaich & Thompson, Chartered will discuss how the court handles voluntary impoverishment in Maryland.

An overview of voluntary impoverishment and Maryland law

In Maryland as in most places, one parent pays child support while the other parent receives it. Generally speaking, the parent with primary or physical custody of the children receives child support payments. However, both parents are expected to contribute to the raising of their children. This is true even when one parent is not allowed contact with the children.

Voluntary impoverishment occurs when one parent decides to be unemployed or underemployed to avoid their financial obligation to the custodial parent. Typically, child support payments are calculated as a percentage of the paying party’s income. This is true unless the party cannot work due to mental or physical disability. A court can make a determination that a parent has chosen to voluntarily impoverish themselves to avoid paying child support. The court can take several actions against the parent if they suspect this is the case.

Factors leading to a determination of voluntary impoverishment

The court can find that a parent has chosen to voluntarily impoverish themselves by reviewing the following factors:

  • The parent’s physical condition
  • The parent’s educational level
  • By comparing the spouse’s earnings before and after the divorce
  • How much effort the parent put into finding employment
  • Whether the parent has tried to get job training
  • The parent’s work history
  • The job market where the parent resides

Maryland recently changed the rules for voluntary impoverishment

Voluntary impoverishment means that a parent made a conscious decision to avoid employment opportunities to prevent the other spouse from receiving child support payments. This means that they were not compelled by factors outside of their control and could retain gainful employment if they so chose.

“Potential income” which is the amount of income a parent could earn if they tried to get a job is considered when a parent is voluntarily impoverished. In other words, it’s their likely earning potential given a number of factors. These factors include age, education, literacy, physical and mental health, location, qualifications, and criminal history.

The court is thus allowed to render a decision on voluntary impoverishment and may levy penalties against an individual who chooses not to be employed in order to avoid child support payments.

Talk to a Maryland Divorce Lawyer Today

The Maryland divorce attorneys at Schlaich & Thompson, Chartered can help you recover child support payments from your former partner. Call our office today to schedule an appointment, and we can begin addressing your concerns right away.

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