Maryland has adopted an "income-shares" model child support guidelines for use in calculating a parent's child support obligation. The Maryland Child Support Guidelines base child support awards on the parents' income rather than the children's expenses, which are already somewhat taken into account in the basic child support charts. The child support is then apportioned between the parents based on each parent's percentage of their combined income. The amount of child support which is calculated under the Guidelines is presumed to be the appropriate amount of child support to be awarded in cases where the parties combined annual actual income is $180,000 or less. The court may deviate from the guidelines amount if the amount would be unjust or inappropriate. And in situations where the parents' combined incomes exceed $180,000 annually, the court has discretion in setting the amount of child support and may consider the children's reasonable expenses and may use an extrapolation method of calculation. In all cases, the cost of work related childcare expenses, children's extraordinary medical expenses, health insurance cost for covering the children, and certain additional expenses such as private school, are apportioned between the parents in accordance with their respective share of the parties' combined income. If the parties' combined incomes exceeds $180,000 per year (or if alimony is also an issue in the case), a Financial Statement (Long Form) is required; if the parties' combined incomes is less than $180,000 annually, then a Financial Statement (Short Form) is required.
There are two child support guidelines worksheets that are used in determining the appropriate amount of child support: (1) a chart where one parent has primary physical custody of the children, and the other parent has the children overnight fewer than 128 nights a year; (2) a "shared" custody worksheet where each parent has the children for at least 35% of the overnights (128+ overnights) each year. For example, if one parent has the children Friday evening until Monday morning on alternate weekends and every Wednesday overnight, that would equal 130 overnights. Thus, the shared custody child support guidelines would apply. The shared custody guidelines worksheet typically result in a substantially reduced child support obligation.
NOTE: For cases filed on or after October 1, 2020, the threshhold for application of the shared custody guidelines will be reduced from 35% (128 overnights) to 25% (92 overnights) and there will be a shared custody adjustment where the overnights are between 25-30% (92-109 overnights) in a year.
If the parents have "split" custody of their children, i.e., one parent has custody of one child and the other parent has custody of the other child, then calculations are made separately for each child and the parent who owes the higher amount pays the net difference to the other parent.
The Maryland Child Support Guidelines define "actual income" to include, without limitation, (i) salaries; (ii) wages; (iii) commissions; (iv) bonuses; (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) for the obligor, any third party payment paid to or for a minor child as a result of the obligor's disability, retirement, or other compensable claim; (xv) alimony or maintenance received; and (xvi) 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 parent's personal living expenses. FL § 12-201(a)(3).
Depending on the circumstances of the case, the court may consider (i) severance pay; (ii) capital gains; (iii) gifts; or (iv) prizes, as actual income. FL §12-201 (a)(4). However, 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. FL §12-201(a)(5).
The child support guidelines list is not exhaustive of all the items that may be included in a party's actual income, but it is a good guide or checklist to consider in both alimony and child support cases. See Income Issues and Voluntary Impoverishment for a discussion of matters such as income from a second job, overtime income, bonuses, commissions, Subchapter S income, and imputing income to a parent who is voluntarily impoverished.
While there are online resources for calculating child support, such as the Maryland Online Child Support Worksheet provided by the Maryland Department of Human Resources, Child Support Enforcement Program, this should be simply a starting point. Use of the online resource is not a substitute for legal counsel and advice that can apply Maryland child support law to your particular circumstances to make sure all considerations have been factored in the determination.
Generally, the obligation to support a particular child ends when the child reaches age 18, but if the child continues enrollment in high school following age 18, then the support obligation continues until the first to occur of the child graduating (or withdrawing from high school) or reaching age 19. It is important to remember that if child support is owed for more than one child, as the obligation ends for a particular child the total amount will not automatically change - it is necessary for you to obtain a court order establishing the new amount based on the financial circumstances that exist at the time of the modification.
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John S. Weaver, Of Counsel
Z Family Law, LLC 51 Monroe Street, Suite 1501, Rockville, MD 20850