Generally, a monthly child support obligation is when one parent pays a specified amount to another parent to share the costs associated with raising a child between two households. The goal of child support is to ensure the child’s needs are met and they maintain a similar standard of living between the two parents’ homes.
Under the law, both parents have a legal obligation to financially support their children until the child is 18, or 19 if the child is still in high school. This is the case even if one parent is not seeing the child (i.e. an absentee parent) or if the child is in the custody of a third-party (i.e. grandparents, siblings). Stepparents do not have a legal financial obligation for their stepchildren.
In Maryland, child support is calculated using the Child Support Guidelines, a mathematical formula that calculates each parent’s child support obligation with an income-sharing formula and taking into account specific payments made by parents on behalf of the children, such as health insurance and work-related childcare. The obligation amount is based on each parents’ percentage of the combined income and in proportion to the number of overnights a child spends with each parent. For example, if Parent 1 makes $40,000 per year and Parent 2 makes $60,000 per year, Parent 1 makes 40% of the combined income, and Parent 2 makes 60% of the combined income. These percentages will be factored into the child support calculations.
The guidelines consider the “actual income” of each parent, or the “potential income” if the Court finds that a parent is voluntarily impoverished. “Actual income” is the gross income from any source including wages, salaries, commissions, bonuses, dividend income, pension income, interest income, trust income, annuity income, Social Security benefits, unemployment insurance benefits, disability insurance benefits, worker’s compensation benefits, alimony received, among others. If one parent has a preexisting child support obligation or is paying alimony to the other parent, that amount is deducted from that parent’s “actual income.” And if a parent is self-employed, “actual income” means the income from gross receipts minus “ordinary and necessary expenses required to produce income.”
Work-Related Childcare Expenses. This factor includes expenses incurred to provide care for the child while the parent is working (i.e. daycare, before/aftercare, babysitters).
Health Insurance. Generally, each parent is required to contribute to the cost of providing health insurance for a child in proportion to his or her adjusted actual income. When one parent is paying the insurance, they are given a “credit” when calculating the guidelines.
Extraordinary Medical Expenses. This factor includes uninsured expenses such as therapy, orthodontia, physical therapy, etc. Generally, each parent is required to contribute to the cost of uninsured medical expenses (over $250 per year) for the child in proportion to his or her adjusted actual income. If one parent is advancing these costs, they are given a “credit” when calculating the guidelines.
School and Transportation Expenses. The costs associated with a private school and or tutoring lessons, as well transportation costs to transfer the child between households may also be considered.
Other Expenses. The Court has the discretion to consider “other expenses” when making a child support award determination.
Custodial Time. The number of overnights the child spends with each parent is considered when calculating child support, according to the guidelines.
After all these factors are input into the formula, a child support obligation amount is calculated. It is important to remember that child support is the child’s right. So, even if one parent is ordered to pay support to the other parent, this amount has been calculated to ensure that the child has a similar quality of life at each parent’s home. It should not simply be viewed as one parent being ordered to give money to the other parent.
Often, parents are unprepared and shocked to hear various child support amounts in the courtroom, because they have no idea what the guidelines are nor how to do the calculations. By understanding the Maryland Child Support Guidelines, each parent can plan for their child custody hearing in court. Hopefully, these guidelines, calculations, and factors have given you some helpful insights into how the state of Maryland calculates child support when considering the support and maintenance of children in child custody and child support matters.
In Maryland, receiving alimony during or after a divorce is not a foregone conclusion. Whether an ex-spouse receives the financial support they seek is determined by the Court.
For those seeking alimony (also called "spousal support") in Maryland, here are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Alimony comes in different forms
In Maryland, there are different types of alimony. Pendente Lite Alimony, also known as “temporary alimony,” is awarded to one party during the divorce process. The purpose of this form of alimony is to ensure that the requesting party can financially support themselves during the divorce proceedings Awards of pendente lite alimony are based on a need by one spouse and an ability to pay by the other spouse. It needs to be agreed upon or Court ordered so a spouse may not receive pendente lite alimony until much further along in the case.
Rehabilitative alimony, awarded post-divorce, is for parties who need time to re-enter the workforce or to complete an educational program to seek a higher-paying job. Rehabilitative alimony is awarded for a short period of time and only after the Court considers various factors, which are described below.
Indefinite alimony is typically given to spouses who are unable to work due to age or disability or who would otherwise experience an “unconscionably disparate” lifestyle from their former spouse.
2. The Court must consider all required factors before making an award of alimony
Maryland law is clear that before a Judge can award alimony at the time of a divorce, the following must be considered:
(a) the ability of a party seeking alimony to be wholly or partly self-supporting;
(b) the time necessary to gain sufficient education or training to find suitable employment;
(c) the standard of living during the marriage;
(d) the duration of the marriage;
(e) the monetary and non-monetary contributions each party made to the well-being of the family;
(f) the circumstances that led to the estrangement of the parties;
(g) the age of each party;
(h) the physical and mental condition of each party;
(i) the ability of the party paying alimony to meet his or her own needs while supporting the other party;
(j) any agreement between the parties;
(k) the needs and resources of each party;
(l) the right of each party to receive retirement benefits; and
(m) if the party receiving alimony would become eligible for medical assistance earlier than otherwise would occur.
Each factor must be weighed separately and the Court can give more weight to one factor over another.
3. There is no required calculator to determine alimony
The amount of the alimony award can vary from case to case. Unlike child support, there is no required alimony calculator in Maryland. This is because many of the required factors are intangible, like non-monetary contributions of a party and fault. While attorneys can use their experience and other tools as a guide for calculating alimony, a Court is not required to use a specific calculator, so the amount of an alimony award will depend on the Judge who is hearing the case.
4. Alimony may be modifiable
Alimony can be modifiable by either party unless there is an agreement stating otherwise. If the income or financial situation of the paying spouse or the receiving spouse changes in a meaningful way before the last alimony payment is made, the court may be able to modify the amount of the payment or terminate it altogether. However, if the parties agree in a Marital Settlement Agreement that the alimony terms will be non-modifiable, the court cannot make a modification. Alimony can be terminated upon the death of either party or if the receiving party gets remarried while still receiving payments.
5. Alimony must be requested timely
Alimony can only be granted during the time in which a couple is litigating and/or before they are finally divorced. If one party fails to make a claim for alimony before the divorce is finalized, or a spouse waives the right to alimony in a Marital Settlement Agreement, they have forever waived that right and they cannot come back and ask for it later.
Alimony can be an invaluable resource for those with financial concerns related to their divorce, but the process of securing an alimony award is complex.
Contact the Law Office of Laurie M. Wasserman, experienced child support and spousal support lawyers in Baltimore and Towson Maryland to receive the experience, expertise, and compassion you need to navigate through your support case. In addition to handling initial support determinations, we represent clients in modifications of support, enforcement of support orders, collection of past-due support, and cases where one parent has purposefully impoverished him or herself to avoid a support obligation.