In a court case dealing with the question of failure to pay child support, Maryland’s appeals court has upheld a family court decision that the father, a construction worker from Jamaica who said he lacked a green card and could not find work, was voluntarily impoverished.
Early Stages of the Case
The appeal concerns Ricardo Dillon’s failure to pay child support to Lynita Miller for their daughter. Dillon and Miller never married and never resided in the same household, the appeals court noted.
After Miller filed a Complaint for Support with the Anne Arundel Office of Child Support Enforcement, the Magistrate recommended that Dillon pay child support of $535 a month. Dillon filed exceptions to the recommendation.
At a second hearing, Dillon testified that he had worked in construction in Jamaica, that he had no mental or physical limitations that prevented him from working and that he had completed high school in Jamaica. He also testified that he could not find consistent work in the United States because of his immigration status. He testified that “he tries to get work when he can.” He also said that returning to Jamaica could affect his immigration status and visa application.
Miller testified that Dillion regularly performed construction work and owned a green card.
Dillon also testified that he was married to another woman in the U.S. and had three other children, contributing money on a monthly basis to support one of the children and paying court-ordered child support of $253 a month for another of the children.
The Magistrate’s Decision
The Magistrate found that Dillon’s testimony that “he had no income at all from income earning sources” was not credible. As a result, the Magistrate recommended that Dillon was voluntarily impoverished and imputed income to him for his child support obligation to be equal to that of earning the federal minimum wage.
The Magistrate also decided that extraordinary circumstances existed, under Maryland law, to justify the entry of an immediate order for a backdated child support.
The trial court ordered that Dillon owed a base amount of $423 a month in child support and to pay an extra $105 a month until the amount of the backdated child support was paid.
On appeal, Dillon said he wasn’t voluntarily impoverished; but, that he was underemployed and shouldn’t have wages imputed to him. “We disagree,” Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals responded.
Details to Support Maryland Family Law
Under Maryland family law, a parent is considered to be voluntarily impoverished whenever the parent has made a free choice, not compelled by factors beyond his or her control, to render himself or herself without adequate resources. If the trial court makes a finding that a parent is voluntarily impoverished, the court must determine the amount of potential income that it will impute to the parent. Potential income is used to determine how much child support a voluntarily impoverished parent must pay.
The appeals court said the trial court had not made a mistake when it held that Dillon was voluntarily impoverished and when it regarded him as having an income at the lowest level – full-time work at the federal minimum wage.
Public policy supports this result, the appeals court said, noting that Dillon fathered the child in the U.S., did not have any physical or mental limitations that prevented him from working and had a long work history in construction in both the U.S. and Jamaica.
The appeals also noted that the logical extension of Dillon’s argument that a person who is physically and mentally capable of working to support his or her child, but is not authorized to work in the U.S. would mean that a person who is not authorized to work in the U.S. cannot be required to pay child support. “We cannot countenance such a result,” the court said.
An experienced Baltimore family law attorney can help you with your Maryland family law divorce, child support and custody issues. The attorneys at The Law Offices of Thomas J. Maronick have experience handling Maryland family law cases. You can contact Thomas Maronick at 410.244.5068 or via our website for a free consultation.