PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY OFFICE OF CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT EX REL. LASHAUN POLLY (DECEASED)
Circuit Court for Prince George's County Case No.
Deborah S., Shaw Geter, Thieme, Raymond G., Jr. (Senior
Judge, Specially Assigned), JJ.
Circuit Court for Prince George's County issued an order
that, among other things, eliminated the child support
arrearages Douglas Brown had accrued, and released to him
child support payments that the Prince George's County
Office of Child Support Enforcement had held in escrow for
the almost two years his children lived with their maternal
grandmother. The Office appeals, essentially asking the
1. Did the circuit court err as a matter of law when it ruled
that it lacked the legal authority to release the escrowed
child support payments to the children's maternal
grandmother because she was not the original payee on the
child support order?
2. Did the circuit court err as a matter of law when it
eliminated Brown's child support arrearages?
answer both questions in the affirmative. Therefore, we shall
reverse and remand for further proceedings consistent with
February 14, 1997, Jada was born to Lashaun Polly and Douglas
Brown. The following year, the Prince George's County
Office of Child Support Enforcement (the "Office"),
filed a complaint against Brown for child support on
Polly's behalf The Circuit Court for Prince George's
County found in favor of Polly and ordered Brown to pay $432
per month in child support, through the Office, beginning
June 1, 1999.
April 3, 2004, a second child, Sonee, was born to Polly and
Brown. In 2011, the Office filed a motion to establish
paternity and a motion to modify child support to include
Sonee. On October 13, 2011, the circuit court declared Brown
to be Sonee's father and ordered Brown to pay $818 per
month in child support for both children, through the Office,
beginning July 1, 2011. Finding that Brown was $1, 518.01 in
arrears, the court also ordered him to pay $25 per month
toward the balance.
September 8, 2014, Polly died. Jada was 17 years old; Sonee
was 10. Willie Mae Polly, the children's maternal
grandmother began caring for the children. On December 14,
2014, the Office began holding in escrow Brown's child
support payments because there was no order authorizing the
Office to release the payments to the grandmother. On April
12, 2016, the Office filed a motion to intervene on behalf of
the grandmother in the child support case, seeking an order
authorizing it to disburse the payments it held in escrow to
the grandmother because Sonee lived with her. At that time,
Brown owed $15, 557.77 in arrearages.
three months later, in July 2016, the circuit court awarded
custody of Sonee to Brown, to start on August 14, 2016; the
grandmother was given reasonable visitation. On August 1,
2016, Brown filed a motion asking the circuit court to
terminate his on-going child support obligation, eliminate
his arrearages, and order the Office to release the escrowed
child support payments to him because Sonee would soon be
living with him pursuant to the custody order.
August 25, 2016, a magistrate held a hearing on the
Office's motion to intervene. Although the Office agreed
with Brown that his on-going child support obligation should
be terminated, the Office sought an order authorizing it to
release the money it held in escrow, $5, 029.77, to the
grandmother. The escrowed money was child support payments
Brown had made from December 14, 2014, when the Office began
holding Brown's child support payments in escrow, until
August 2016, when Sonee began living with Brown. Brown argued
that the grandmother was not entitled to the escrowed funds
because it was offset by the Social Security death benefits
around $1, 100 per month that she received on behalf of the
children following Polly's death.
magistrate sympathized with the grandmother. However, the
magistrate did not believe that she had the legal authority
to release the escrowed funds to the grandmother, stating:
You know, Counsel, I agree with you that she was taking care
of the children, but I have - there's no legal authority
for me to give her that money. There's nothing, you know,
ordering - and he does have a moral obligation to support.
But he needs to do that on his own. There was no motion or no
grant of support or even a change in payee was not entered in
this case prior to recently. So I can't ...