Lowering Child Support Payments

Like many people in today's economy, James Knott's income decreased from $69,000 to $25,000 a year when he was laid off in October of 1999. Unfortunately for him, he had agreed by Consent Order to pay monthly child support for his daughter, Mallory, in the amount of $1,316 in his divorce the month before. With his new income, James had $454 a month left after he paid his child support. James moved to modify but the trial court upheld the amount. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals, in Knott v. Knott, 146 Md. App. 232 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 2002), reversed saying that the test was what was in the child's best interest. It is usually difficult to convince a court that a decrease in child support is in the child's best interest, but here the appeals court said: "The court failed to assess the impact of the payments under the Consent Order on the financial resources of appellant and appellee, or on the needs of Mallory. This was reversible error. The court should have applied the guidelines because they are presumptively correct as to the appellant's child support obligation. See Md. Code (1984, 1999 Repl. Vol., 2001 Suppl), § 12-202(a)(2) of the Family Law Article." "It is not difficult," Judge Green said, "for this court to see that requiring appellant to live on $454 per month, while requiring $1,216 per month in support of Mallory, may very well not be in her best interest."

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