Can Immigration Status Impact Maryland Child Support?

On September 29, the Court of Special Appeals issued an opinion about child support, focusing on the intersection of voluntary impoverishment (deliberate unemployment or underemployment to avoid paying child support) and immigration status.

In short, in Dillon v. Miller, the Appellate Court decided that the parent could support the child with monetary gifts from family (which the parent testified to receiving), income from working in the US, and income from working in the parent’s home country. The Court pointed to the lack of credible evidence supporting the parent’s argument that returning to the parent’s home country would jeopardize the parent’s immigration status in the US.

On income from work in the US, the Court said:

“To be clear, we are not telling Dillon that he must work illegally to pay child support. Rather, Dillon admitted that he works when he can, even though he claims that he does not have a green card or work authorization. We can, and must, count the salary and wages that he earns from those jobs towards his child support obligations. See Gallagher v. Gallagher, 118 Md. App. 567, 581-82 (1997) (stating that determining alimony based on illegal income does not encourage or require a person to break the law, but merely recognizes an existing reality).”

The Appellate Court also found that it was proper for the trial court to impute (so, assign and treat as actually earned) minimum wage income to the parent.

This raises the question of whether it is possible to prove that immigration status and inability to work legally in the US or in one’s home country without jeopardizing one’s immigration efforts in the US are reasons not to find a parent voluntarily impoverished and, so, not impute income to him or her.  Perhaps it is a matter of sufficient evidence.

Since 2002, Lindsay Parvis has represented clients in Maryland custody, divorce, and marital matters. She negotiates, litigates, and advocates for the best interests of her clients, whether in contested litigation, uncontested settlement, or premarital and other agreements. Her clients are not only spouses and parents, but also children whose interests she is appointed by the court to represent in contested custody litigation. She is a graduate of Mount Holyoke and University of Baltimore School of Law. Lindsay strives to improve Maryland law in the General Assembly, volunteering her time to monitor, advocate, and educate about legislative developments in family law. You can follow her on Linked InFacebookLindsayParvis.com, and subscribe to her Newsletter for discussion, news, and developments in Maryland family law.


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