Validity of Agreements

At Maslan, Maslan & Rothwell, P.A., we are not afraid to take on difficult cases and potentially create new law. A client contacted our office from another state that was facing potential child support arrears in excess of $70,000 and unpaid alimony in excess of $40,000. His ex wife claimed he was in contempt of a marital settlement and divorce decree that required him to pay child support and permanent alimony. He presented counsel with a signed agreement whereby his ex wife agreed to waive her permanent alimony award and future child support payments in exchange for him not exercising his visitation rights.

At trial, the ex wife admitted that there was an agreement but the court was concerned about Maryland Family Law Article 12-104(b) Modification of Child Support and the case of Harvey v. Marshall, 389 Md. 243, 884 A.2d. 1171 (2005) which provided that “the court may not retroactively modify a child support award prior to the date of filing of the motion for modification.” This statute and case stand for the proposition that 12-104 provides for a prohibition against retroactivity modifying or eliminating arrearages for child support.

In Maryland it is also well settled law that child support is absolute and cannot be waived by parents by an agreement. It is an alienable right enjoyed by the child for which not form of contract between the parents, nor change of domestic circumstances of either of them may effect.. Weaver v. Garrett, 13 Md.App. 283, 287, 282 A.2d., 509, 411 (1971).

The client had the signed agreement but was unrepresented by counsel and never filed a motion to modify the child support or alimony in the case. The Office of Child Support Enforcement started to collect child support, some years after the agreement was signed and had set a nominal amount of arrears. The client paid what was requested and the case was marked as closed when the minor child reached the age of majority at 18.

The ex wife presented no evidence at trial on what happened with the office of child support enforcement and the issue of arrears. She offered no testimony to contradict or challenge what the father had paid. The Court found that it was not terribly difficult to find a binding agreement between Mother and Father regarding alimony. The Court stated that the Court was not persuaded of any fraud or duress on Father’s part in getting mother to sign the agreement. The contract was supported by consideration, ie you stay away from child and I waive alimony. Mother did nothing after the agreement was signed.

The Court struggled with the child support issue. The Mother presented no evidence of any action for years to collect the claimed obligations of Father. She filed no contempt actions, and no explanation why the office of child support enforcement closed their file. The court stated that must be persuaded by the evidence and at least by a preponderance of same that father still owes years and years of back child support. The Court stated it was not persuaded by the evidence presented by Mother. The Court stated that there were too many unanswered questions and too many years which have ensued to find for the Mother.

This case was proof that a client with a simple agreement and a great story can be helped. The attorneys at Maslan, Maslan & Rothwell, P.A., have the experience and knowledge to present cases like this one in the Maryland Courts and achieve good results.

About Maryland Family and Real Estate Law
General information and commentary on child custody, support, divorce, separation, visitation, real estate, landlord/tenant and loss mitigation

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