Maryland Court Issues Important Decision Regarding Child Support
In December 2021, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland made two important decisions regarding the payment of child support. Both decisions arose from the same case, Fludd v. Kirkwood. These decisions have a far-reaching impact on those paying and receiving child support.
The first decision was that a court can continue to hear a child support matter even if both parents no longer reside in Maryland. The original case involving the mother, Ms. Kirkwood, and father, Mr. Fludd, was in Montgomery County. After ten years of on-and-off litigation, both parents moved outside of Maryland. Before Ms. Kirkwood moved, she filed a case in Maryland regarding child support and Mr. Fludd responded to her filing. But, for unclear reasons, Ms. Kirkwood’s child support motion sat dormant in litigation for four years.
Eventually, Mr. Fludd argued that the Maryland Court should not hear the case because no one lived in Maryland anymore. He wanted the case heard in Texas, where Ms. Kirkwood and their children were living, and where the custody portion of their case had already been transferred. Meanwhile, Ms. Kirkwood wanted to keep the child support matter in Maryland to maintain the four years’ worth of child support arrears that she was owed.
There are specific rules that a court must consider when multiple states are involved in a custody or child support dispute. Those rules are called the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (“UCCJEA”). The Court found that because the parties lived in Maryland before they separated, and the obligation to pay child support arose in Maryland, the case could continue in Maryland even though neither party resided in the state. This is important because it shows that a parent cannot run away from child support obligations, including arrearages. Rather, the obligation continues in that originating state until a court determines otherwise.
The second important decision the Court made was that Mr. Fludd was prohibited from raising the defense that Ms. Kirkwood waited too long to file her claim regarding arrears because the case was dormant for over four years. In other types of litigation, the defense Mr. Fludd tried to raise, called “laches”, could be a reason for the Court to deny a request made by someone who waited too long to pursue a dispute. The Court found that in Ms. Kirkwood’s case, the delay was the Court’s fault, and not Ms. Kirkwood’s so that defense was rejected. Additionally, child support is the child’s right, and a child cannot be said to have inexcusably delayed asserting their right to support. Any delay in the child support action could not have relieved Mr. Fludd of his continuing duty to support his children. This decision implies that a parent can pursue arrears even if that pursuit is years later.
The case containing these decisions is Fludd v. Kirkwood (No. 1297, September Term, 2020, Filed December 16, 2021). If you have questions regarding child support obligations or arrearages, please contact Wasserman Family Law.
If you have questions about child support, please contact Laurie Wasserman at email@example.com or 410-842-1070. The legal team at Wasserman Family Law is here to help guide and advocate for you.
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