-written by Attorney Maureen Renehan
Child Support, In General.
Child Support is defined as the payment from one parent to the other parent for the purpose of financially supporting the children. Child support is a right that belongs to the child; not the parent receiving it. Thus, parents cannot waive child support. Both parents have a legal duty to support their children based on their ability to provide that support.
The paying parent will almost always be ordered to make a monthly money payment to the custodial parent for child support. Child support is not paid to the child; however, the payments to the custodial parent are intended to be used to pay for the basic needs of the child, such as housing, food, clothing and the like. The parent paying child support cannot deduct those payments from his or her income when filing taxes. Likewise, the parent receiving child support cannot include those payments as income when filing taxes. These tax rules are the same for both Federal and Maryland income taxes.
A child support order is not set in stone. The Maryland courts retain jurisdiction to change a child support order based upon a material change in circumstances. Material changes in circumstances warranting a modification of child support include, but are not limited to, an increase or decrease in one or both party’s income, an increase or decrease in the children’s expenses, the emancipation of one of the children, a change in the custodial arrangement, etc. Either parent may petition the court to raise or lower the child support amount.
Child support terminates when the child turns age 18, or if the child is still enrolled in high school as of the date of his or her 18th birthday, until the child graduates from high school or turns 19. Child support also terminates upon the full-time employment of the child, the marriage of the child, the death of the child, or the death of the paying parent.
The Maryland Child Support Guidelines
In 1990, the Maryland General Assembly passed a law establishing the State’s first set of Child Support Guidelines. The Child Support Guidelines provide a standardized approach to the calculation of child support based on a proportion of each parent’s gross income. These Guidelines have only been revised once in 30 years; specifically in 2010.
The use of the Child Support Guidelines is mandatory if the parties’ combined gross incomes are less than Fifteen Thousand Dollars ($15,000.00) per month. There is a rebuttable presumption that the amount of child support which would result from the application of the Child Support Guidelines is the correct amount of child support to be awarded. The presumption may be rebutted by evidence that the application of the Guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate in a particular case. If the parties’ combined actual incomes exceed Fifteen Thousand Dollars ($15,000.00) per month, the court may use its discretion in setting an appropriate child support amount.
The Child Support Guidelines take into consideration the following criteria:
- the number of children;
- the number of overnights the children spend with each parent, i.e. the physical custody arrangement;
- each party’s gross income;
- who pays for the children’s health insurance and in what amount;
- who pays for extraordinary medical expenses and in what amount; (“Extraordinary medical expenses” is defined as uninsured costs for medical treatment in excess of $250.00 in any calendar year, and includes but is not limited to orthodontia, dental treatment, vision care, asthma treatment, physical therapy, treatment for any chronic health problem, and professional counseling or psychiatric therapy for diagnosed mental disorders).
- who pays for work-related childcare and in what amount; (“Work-related childcare” is defined as actual childcare expenses incurred on behalf of a child due to employment or job search of either parent).
- if there is private school, and if so, who pays for it and what in amount; and
- any expenses for transportation of the child between the home of the parents.
If one or both parents have made a request for alimony, the court will first decide the issue and amount of alimony. If alimony is awarded, the amount of alimony awarded is considered actual income for the recipient and shall be subtracted from the income of the payor before the court determines the amount of child support.
October 2020 Changes to the Child Support Guidelines
How many overnights the child or children spend with each parent controls whether or not the Child Support Guidelines will be calculated pursuant to “sole custody” Guidelines or “shared custody” Guidelines. Under the current statute, “shared physical custody” means that the non-custodial parent has the child or children overnight for more than 35% of the time, or 128 overnights per year. If a parent has the child or children less than 35% of the time, or 127 overnights per year or less, then the sole custody Guidelines apply.
A new statute will take effect on October 1, 2020 which converts this concrete “128 overnights” divider between sole and share custody Guidelines into a downward slope between the two sets of Guidelines. First, the statute lowers the number of overnights from 35% to 25% of the time. Thus, the sole custody Guidelines will only be applicable to cases where the non-custodial parent has the child or children less than 25% of the time, or less than 92 overnights per year. The shared custody Guidelines will be applicable to cases where the non-custodial parent has the child or children more 30% of the time, or 110 or more overnights per year. And, for the non-custodial parent that has the child or children more than 92 overnights but less than 110 overnights per year, the new statute establishes a certain formula for the calculation of child support. This formula is as follows:
- The basic child support amount due is multiple by 10 if the non-custodial parent has the child or children for more than 25% (at least 92 overnights) but less than 26% (not more than 94 overnights) of the year
- The basic child support amount due is multiple by 08 if the non-custodial parent has the child or children for more than 26% (at least 95 overnights) but less than 27% (not more than 98 overnights) of the year
- The basic child support amount due is multiple by 06 if the non-custodial parent has the child or children for more than 27% (at least 99 overnights) but less than 28% (not more than 102 overnights) of the year
- The basic child support amount due is multiple by 04 if the non-custodial parent has the child or children for more than 28% (at least 103 overnights) but less than 29% (not more than 105 overnights) of the year
- The basic child support amount due is multiple by 02 if the non-custodial parent has the child or children for more than 29% (at least 106 overnights) but less than 30% (not more than 109 overnights) of the year
The new child support statute will only apply to cases filed on or after October 1, 2020. You should consult with your attorney to determine if and how this new statute might impact your child support case.