When a parent doesn’t pay court-ordered child support the amount due keeps adding up every month and is called an arrearage.

Is your child support in arrears? When a parent doesn’t pay court-ordered child support the amount due adds up every month. This is called a child support arrearage.

Sometimes you would like to make the arrearage go away. For example, if you reconciles or child custody changes from one parent to the other, you may think that the child support arrearage should be resolved.

In Harvey v. Marshall, 158 Md. App. 355 ((2004), a father asked the Bureau of Child Support Enforcement (now the Office of Child Support Enforcement or “OCSE”) to extinguish his arrearage when he gained custody of the children.  OCSE said no and the trial court agreed on the basis of Family Law Section 12-104 of the Maryland Code which provides “The court may not retroactively modify a child support award prior to the date of the filing of the motion for modification.”

Family Law Section 10-112 of the Maryland Code lays out circumstances where OCSE may abate or settle child support arrearages for less than the full amount due.  There is no such statutory exception for private parties.  In fact, several cases say parents may not waive or bargain away a child’s right to receive support. See, e.g., Corapcioglu v. Roosevelt, 170 Md.App. 572, 606, 907 A.2d 885 (2006).

Theoretically, a child support arrearage can only disappear when OCSE abates it under Section 10-112.  As a practical matter, we have seen them disappear, perhaps erroneously, in cases with only private parties, too.