FAQ: Child Support in Maryland
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.
At the Law Office of Laurie M. Wasserman, we receive a lot of questions about child support in Maryland. Here are some of the most common questions and answers:
What are my legal obligations?
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.
How will the court calculate my child support?
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.
Do these guidelines apply to all income brackets across the board?
The use of these guidelines is mandatory if the parents’ combined annual income is less than $15,000 per month or $180,000 per year. The legislature sets the amount of child support at each income level. If the parents combined income is more than $15,000 per month, the courts have the discretion to deviate from the guidelines to determine the appropriate monthly child support amount.
What other factors are included in the guidelines formula?
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.
If you have questions about child support in Maryland, contact Laurie Wasserman at email@example.com or call our main number 410-842-1070. For the foreseeable future, we will be available by telephone and virtually to serve our clients.