Child Support in Maryland
How is Child Support Calculated?
Maryland law requires that child support be calculated using mandatory child support guidelines. The Guidelines provide a formula for calculating child support based on a proportion of each parent’s income and the amount of time the child or children spend with each parent. There are two different Guideline Worksheets, one for determining child support in a primary physical custody situation and the other for determining child support in a shared custody arrangement. The Guidelines basic child support obligation applies to parents with combined adjusted actual income of up to $15,000.00 per month.
What if I do not think the Guideline recommendation is fair?
There is a rebuttable presumption that the Guidelines provide the correct amount of child support to be paid. This means that the Court presumes that the Guideline child support recommendation is correct; however, if a party can prove with sufficient evidence that the amount is not just, the Court may order a different amount to be paid.
What if our combined adjusted actual income exceeds $15,000 per month?
In cases where the parties combined adjusted actual income exceeds $15,000.00 per month, the Guidelines do not apply and the Court has the ability to determine child support based upon the reasonable needs of the child or children while also considering the parents’ financial situations.
What information is considered when using the Child Support Guidelines?
The Child Support Guidelines take the following into account:
- Whether one parent has primary custody or the parties have shared custody;
- The number of children;
- Each party’s actual gross income;
- The costs of medical insurance and work related child care;
- Any other support the non-custodial parent is paying;
- Alimony, paid in the current case or in another case;
- Extraordinary medical expenses; and
- Additional expenses such as private school and transportation between the parents’ homes.
How do I know if the Primary Physical Custody Guidelines or the Shared Custody Guidelines should be used?
The Guidelines consider the number of children being supported and the amount of time the children spend with each parent. If a child spends less than 35% of overnights with a parent then primary physical custody guidelines apply. If a child spends more than 35% of the overnights (128+) with a parent then shared custody guidelines apply.
What is Actual Income?
Maryland Family Law Code, s 12-201defines income for child support purposes as follows:
"Actual income" means income from any source and includes:
(v) dividend income;
(vi) pension income;
(vii) interest income;
(viii) trust income;
(ix) annuity income;
(x) Social Security benefits;
(xi) workers’ compensation benefits;
(xii) unemployment insurance benefits;
(xiii) disability insurance benefits;
(xiv) alimony or maintenance received; and
(xv) expense reimbursements or in-kind payments received by a parent in the course of employment, self- employment, or operation of a business to the extent the reimbursements or payments reduce the parents personal living expenses.
What if a parent is self-employed?
For income from self-employment, "actual income" means gross receipts minus ordinary and necessary expenses required to produce income. This formula also applies to income from rent, royalties, proprietorship of a business, or joint ownership of a partnership or closely held corporation.
Can any other income be included?
Based on the circumstances of the case, the court may consider the following items as actual income:
(i) severance pay;
(ii) capital gains;
(iii) gifts; or
What income is not included?
"Actual income" does not include benefits received from means-tested public assistance programs, including temporary cash assistance, Supplemental Security Income, food stamps, and transitional emergency medical, and housing assistance.
What if a parent is not working to their full capacity?
If the Court finds that a parent is not working to their full capacity, sometimes referred to as voluntary impoverishment, the Judge has the discretion to impute income to that parent based on the evidence presented
How do I determine the amount for health insurance?
The monthly health insurance amount is the amount that one or both of the parties pays in health insurance premiums for the child or children. Usually it is the difference between the total monthly premium payment for a family and the total monthly premium for a single person.
What is included in work related childcare expenses?
Work related childcare expenses are those actual childcare expenses incurred on behalf of a child due to employment or job search of either parent. Childcare expenses not related to employment or job search are not included. Typically, the Court will look to the experiences of the family to determine whether or not a childcare expense is reasonable.
What are extraordinary medical expenses?
Extraordinary medical expenses are those expenses over $100 for a single illness or condition. These expenses include uninsured, reasonable, and necessary costs for orthodontia, dental treatment, asthma treatment, physical therapy, treatment for any chronic health problem, and professional counseling or psychiatric therapy for diagnosed mental disorders.
What are considered additional expenses?
School and transportation expenses may be considered as additional expenses. School expenses are those incurred for attending a special or private elementary or secondary school in order to meet the particular educational needs of the child. Transportation expenses are those incurred for transporting the child between the homes of the parents.
Will child support begin from the date of separation?
No, the Court only has the authority to grant child support from the date a request is filed with the Court.
When does child support terminate?
The obligation to pay child support terminates when the first of these events occurs: (a) the child reaches the age of 18, except that if the child has not completed high school then child support shall continue until the completion of high school, or the child reaching age 19; (b) the death of the child, (c) marriage of the child, (d) the child becoming self-supporting, (e) or the death of the parent paying support.
A court order may be necessary to terminate child support. If there are minor children remaining, then child support may need to be recalculated based on factors existing at the time of the modification.
Can a Child Support Order be changed?
Yes, If a parent can show a material change in circumstances, such as a material increase or decrease in income, and/or a change in work related child care or additional expenses, then a request for a modification of child support may be granted by the Court.
Will the court modify a Court Order from the date the change occurred?
No, the Court only has the ability to modify a child support order from the date the request for a modification was filed.
If both parties agree to a change in child support, is a Court Order necessary?
Unless the agreement to modify child support is in writing, the Court does not have to honor a verbal agreement. Thus, if there is an agreement to modify a child support order, there should be a written agreement at a minimum, and preferably the parties should request a Court Order.
Is there a resource for me to determine the amount of child support I may receive or the amount I may have to pay?
Yes, the Maryland Department of Human Resources, Child Support Enforcement Program has the guideline worksheets available online. Additionally, you can find a schedule of the basic support obligations in Family Law Code s 12-204(e) here.
Why should I consult an attorney?
Because there are many factors that could affect the child support calculation, it may be in your best interest to consult with Ms. Hess at Hess Family Law, or another attorney regarding your child support issue.