FAQs About Child Support in Maryland

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Frequently Asked Questions About Child Support in Maryland

Child support is essential in ensuring that children can get the financial support they need from their parents, no matter their circumstances. In Maryland, co-parents can control their child support arrangement through mediation or a collaborative divorce. However, the Court must approve the arrangement to ensure it meets legal requirements and serves the best interest and well-being of the child(ren).

On July 1, 2022, Maryland updated its Child Support Guidelines, which the Courts use to determine child support obligations.

How Do Maryland’s Child Support Guidelines Work?

Maryland computes its guidelines using each parent’s “actual income,” adjusted for:

  • Preexisting child support actually paid;
  • Health insurance premiums (if child included);
  • Alimony (deducted from payor and added to payee). The outcome is affected by certain expenses, which are divided proportionately based on the parties’ incomes:
  1. work-related child care,
  2. extraordinary medical expenses, and
  3. additional expenses (including special or private school and transportation between parents’ homes).

Before July 1, 2022, the parents’ combined adjusted income range was $15,000 per month. However, when the state enacted the new law, the range increased to $30,000 per month. What does this mean for divorcing couples with children? If your combined income exceeds $30,000 per month, a judge will award child support at their discretion rather than using the calculator formula. The calculator formula applies to couples with a combined income of $30,000 or less.

What Counts As Income for Computing Child Support?

“Actual income,” which counts for computing child support, applies to income from any source. It includes (but is not limited to):

  1. Salaries
  2. Wages
  3. Commissions
  4. Bonuses
  5. Dividend income
  6. Pension income
  7. Interest income
  8. Trust income
  9. Annuity income
  10. Social Security benefits
  11. Workers’ compensation benefits
  12. Unemployment insurance benefits
  13. Disability insurance benefits
  14. Alimony or maintenance received

As noted above, “actual income” is not limited to these categories. Read more FAQs about expense reimbursements or in-kind payments, self-employment income, overtime, and other categories.

What About Company-Paid Cars, Business Expense Accounts, and Other Business Expenses?

Expense reimbursements or in-kind payments received by a parent during employment, self-employment, or business operation to the extent the reimbursements or payments reduce the parent’s personal living expenses are included in “actual income.”

How is Income from Self-Employment or a Small Business Figured?

For income from self-employment, rent, royalties, proprietorship of a business, or joint ownership of a partnership or closely held corporation, “actual income” means gross receipts minus ordinary and necessary expenses required to produce income.

Is Other Income Eligible for Child Support?

Based on the circumstances of the case, the Court may consider the following items as actual income:

  • Severance pay
  • Capital gains
  • Gifts
  • Prizes

For example, in one case where a parent had received regular subsidies from his mother for an extended period, these subsidies were included in his “actual income.” However, in another case, where a mother’s live-in boyfriend paid toward bills for rent, electricity, cable, telephone service, and trash removal, the payments were not included in her “actual income.”

Does Overtime Income Count Toward Child Support?

Money earned by working overtime as a regular part of a parent’s employment constitutes “actual income” for determining child support payments. However, this additional income cannot be speculative or uncertain.

How Do Maryland Courts Determine Child Care Expenses?

Maryland courts determine child care expenses based on actual family experience unless the court finds that the actual family experience is not in the child’s best interest. If there is no actual family experience, or the court finds that the actual family experience is not in the child’s best interest, then child care expenses are set at the lesser of what it would cost to provide quality care from a licensed source, or the actual cost of care chosen by the custodial parent.

Does Maryland Require the Use of Guidelines in Determining Child Support?

Per the new law that went into effect on July 1, 2022, child support guidelines do not apply when the parents have a monthly combined adjusted income exceeding $30,000. If their monthly combined adjusted income is $30,000 or less, the guidelines apply.

What if the Parties’ Combined Income Exceeds $30,000?

Child support guidelines do not apply when the parents have a monthly combined adjusted income above $30,000. In this situation, factors that should be considered when setting child support include the financial circumstances of the parties, their station in life, their age and physical condition, and the expenses of educating the children.

Does the Amount of Time a Child Spends with Each Parent Affect Child Support?

Yes. If a child spends more than 35 overnights (97 overnights per year) with each parent, the Court uses special guidelines to compute child support.

Can a Parent Avoid Paying Child Support by Taking a Lower-Paying Job or Choosing an Alternative Lifestyle?

Before the new law’s passage on July 1, 2022, “voluntary impoverishment” did not have a statutory definition or guidance. However, now the Court can assign an income to a parent attempting to evade financial responsibility for their children by “working under the table,” cutting back shifts, adopting a frugal lifestyle, or refusing employment. Such parents will face accountability because Maryland courts have discretion and definitions, allowing them to assign appropriate child support based on potential earnings.

Is Child Support Affected by Whether the Child Was Born In or Out of Wedlock?

A child born out of wedlock is entitled to the same level of support as would be afforded to a child who is the product of a marriage.

Can Child Support Be Computed Online?

The Maryland Department of Human Resources provides an online child support worksheet at www.dhr.state.md.us/csea/worksheet.htm. However, this worksheet is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney who can apply the legal definitions of sole custody or shared custody, actual income, adjusted actual income, work-related child care expenses, extraordinary medical expenses, and other terms used to compute child support to a particular case.

What Is A Self-Support Reserve?

Maryland law entitles parents to keep an income reserve of at least $1,145 after paying their child support. This newly established Self-Support Reserve (SSR) is a substantial increase from the previous guidance amount of $867 and provides parents with some financial security while still supporting their children financially. The Court also has discretion when determining SSRs if it means more can stay in a parent’s pocket for essential needs.

Can A Judge Decline to Order Child Support?

The new law grants the Court extraordinary powers to refuse a child support order in rare cases. The Court can exercise this discretion when the parent meets specific conditions, such as if the non-custodial parent is unemployed and incarcerated, suffering from a disability, or in need of rehabilitation due to hospitalization or criminal confinement.

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