Child Support in Maryland
Parents going through a break up or divorce have a legal duty to support their child based upon their ability to provide that support. Child support cases in Maryland range from very simple matters involving routine application of the Maryland child support guidelines, to very complex cases involving the imputation of income to a party who is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, sometimes even through the use of expert testimony.
Determination of Child Support Obligation.
Ideally, parents will reach an agreement on the amount of child support to be paid and by whom. If they are unable to reach an agreement, then either parent may ask the court to determine the appropriate amount of child support.
Since 1990, Maryland has had child support guidelines in place, which provide a formula for calculating child support based on a proportion of each parent's gross income. These guidelines are applied unless a party can show that application of the guidelines would be unjust and inappropriate in a particular case, or if the combined income of both parents exceeds $15,000 per month, at which point the court makes a determination based upon the needs of the children.
The guidelines generally take into account each parent’s income, the support by either parent of other children (such as by prior marriages), day care expenses and health care costs.
What Counts as Income in Maryland for Child Support Purposes?
For purposes of calculating child support in Maryland, the guidelines take into account the actual gross monthly income of both parties, before taxes. Maryland has a very broad definition of what it counts as actual gross income. In Maryland, actual income include: salaries, wages, commissions, bonuses dividend income, pension income, interest income, trust income, annuity income, Social Security benefits, workers’ compensation benefits, unemployment insurance benefits, disability insurance benefits, alimony or maintenance received, and expense reimbursements. It is important to note that the child support guidelines take into account all income, not just taxable income.
Pursuant to Maryland Rules, in any case where child support is at issue, the parents are required to file a Financial Statement, under oath. The Financial Statement discloses all income, expenses, assets, and liabilities. A specific form for the two types of Financial Statement is included in the rules.
The Financial Statement is a sworn document signed under penalty of perjury, which reduces the likelihood that a parent will under-report their financial situation, or flat out lie. Perjury is a criminal offense that can result in jail time, fines, or both.
Voluntary Reduction of Income.
If a parent voluntarily leaves a higher paying position to take a lesser paying job, then the court can still calculate support based on that parent’s higher income at the former job. In this case, the court can say the parent is voluntarily underemployed, and will impute income to that parent. If a parent simply quits his or her job, or is fired as a result of misconduct or bad behavior, then the court has the ability to say that parent is voluntarily unemployed, and continue to calculate child support based on the income from that job.
Alternatively, in either situation, the court can determine what the underemployed or unemployed parent is capable of earning, and impute that amount of income to them. Usually the court will require a vocational expert testimony to make this determination.
When Does Child Support Begin?
Child support is normally paid by the non-custodial parent (i.e. the parent who does not primarily live with the children) to the custodial parent. When there is a court order, it will outline when child support starts and when it is due. When there isn’t a court order, however, the non-custodial parent should still provide some amount of support for the children. Remember that both parents have an ongoing duty to financially support their children in Maryland. Keep in mind that if a party files for child support with the court, any award that is made will be retroactive to the date the petition was filed. If no support is paid between the time of a child support filing through the date child support is ordered by the court, then there will an arrearage.
What is Included in a Child Support Order?
There are several parts to most child support orders. First, the non-custodial parent will almost always be ordered to make a monthly money payment to the custodial parent, starting on a certain date. It is important to note that the payment is made to the parent, and not the children, with the idea that the funds will be used to pay for the needs of the children.
Second, the order will specify the method by which child support is paid. There are several options here, including payment directly to the custodial parent, payment by automatic funds transfer, payment by earnings withholding, and payment through the Office of Child Support Enforcement.
Third, the order will typically identify the amount of any arrearage, which is the amount of child support that has accrued, but not been paid, from the date of filing a child support petition through the date of a child support order.
Lastly, the order will include a child support termination provision. Child support is payable in Maryland until such time as a child dies, marries, becomes emancipated, reaches the age of eighteen years or, if the child attains the age of eighteen years and is enrolled in secondary school, until the child graduates from or is no longer enrolled in secondary school or attains the age of nineteen years, whichever event occurs first.
Modification of Child Support in Maryland.
Although child support is ordered by the court, and there is a specific amount, frequency, and termination date, child support is always modifiable in Maryland when there has been a material change in circumstances. If circumstances change, such as income, daycare costs, medical insurance, emancipation, or anything else, then it is crucial to speak with an experienced child support attorney in Maryland to determine whether it is advisable to seek a modification.
Contact a Wayside Legal Child Support Attorney
Wayside Legal LLC is an award-winning law firm located in North Bethesda, Maryland, with years of experience handling child support proceedings throughout Maryland, D.C., and Virginia. If you are facing a case involving child support, contact a Wayside Legal attorney today for a consultation to discuss your specific situation.