Child Support Coverage in Maryland
Child support covers more than the child’s necessities. It usually also covers a child’s medical care, extraordinary medical expenses, education, childcare, transportation, entertainment, and extracurricular activities. Extraordinary medical expenses may include costs that are not covered by basic health insurance such as dental and eye care. Education expenses may include tuition, textbooks, tutors, etc. Transportation expenses may cover the cost to have a car or take public transportation. Entertainment expenses may cover the cost to have a computer, television, camping trips, etc. Lastly, extracurricular activities cover sports, girl/boy scouts, or any other after school programs.
Effect of Joint on Child Support in Maryland
When parents have joint custody of the child, the state of Maryland uses a different calculation worksheet. The amount of time a parent spends with a child may affect the amount of child support needed. The court may base a child support order based on shared physical custody. In Maryland, shared physical custody means that the parents have the child overnight for more than 35% of the year; that is more than 128 nights per year.
Summary of the Child Support Laws in Maryland
There are eight basic principles for child support in Maryland:
1. Both parents share legal responsibility for supporting their children and economic responsibility should be divided in proportion to their available income.
2. Subsistence needs of each parent should be taken into account.
3. Child support must cover a child’s basic needs as a first priority.
4. Each child of a given parent has an equal right to share in that parent’s income, subject to factors such as age of the child, income of each parent, income of current spouses, and other dependents.
5. Each child is entitled to determination of support without respect to the marital status of the parents at the time of the child’s birth.
6. Application of a guideline should be sexually non-discriminatory.
7. Guidelines should not create extraneous negative effects on the major life decisions of either parent.
8. A guideline should encourage the involvement of both parents in the child’s upbringing.
Procedural Process for Receiving Child Support in Maryland
Child support is usually determined during or soon after divorce or separation. The federal government usually does not get involved in child support cases and this matter is dealt with by the state. It is not necessary to involve the legal system in determining child support. Parents many times have informal agreements on child support payments. When involving the court, parents sometimes hire lawyers to file child support applications or sometimes file it on their own. Parents have to file a financial statement indicating their income and expenses. The court will then determine the child support payment, but they usually do not deviate from the child support guidelines. A parent can return to court when one parent is not making payments to enforce the child support payment.
Calculation of Child Support in Maryland
Maryland follows the Income Shares Model in determining child support. This model gives the child the same proportionate income that he/she would have received if the parents lived together. This method applies if a parent has sole custody or even if parents share joint custody. To compute child support under this model the courts consider:
- The income of the parents (gross or net) is determined and then added together.
- A “basic child support obligation” is computer based on the combined income of the parents, using a table in the guidelines.
- A “presumptive child support obligation” is then computed by adding expenditures for work-related child care expenses and extraordinary medical expenses to the basic child support obligation.
- The presumptive child support obligation is prorated between each parent based on his or her proportionate share of total income.
Deviation by Court from Child Support Guidelines in Maryland
Courts can deviate from the estimated child support worksheet if it seems just and appropriate and it would be in the best interest of the child. In determining if the guidelines are unjust or inappropriate, the court may consider factors such as the terms of any existing separation or property settlement agreement and the presence in the household of either parent of other children to whom that parent owes a duty of support and the expenses for whom that parent is directly contributing.
Child Support by Agreement in Maryland
The court will honor a child support agreement as long as it is not unjust or inappropriate even if it does not follow the child support guidelines directly. In addition, both parents have to file financial statements that indicate their income and expenses. The court can order the child support payment as soon as the initial pleading for child support is filed.
Income for Child Support Computation in Maryland
Maryland statues have defined some of the terms that are used in the guidelines worksheet. The monthly actual income is defined to mean income from any source. It includes: salaries, wages, commissions, bonuses, dividend income, pension income, interest income, trust income, annuity income, social security benefits, worker’s compensation benefits, unemployment insurance benefits, disability insurance benefits. The court may also consider severance pay, capital gains, gifts, or prizes as actual income depending on the circumstances. Work related child care expenses are expenses incurred on behalf of child due to employment or job search of either parent. Health insurance expenses mean any actual cost of providing health insurance coverage for a child. Extraordinary medical expenses mean uninsured expenses over a $100 for a single illness or condition. It includes: uninsured, reasonable and necessary costs for orthontia, dental treatment, asthma treatment, physical therapy, treatment for any chronic health problem and professional counseling or psychiatric theory for diagnosed mental disorders.
Determination of Parental Income in Maryland
A Child Support Schedule that is derived from the Maryland statute determines the basic child support obligation. The schedule takes the combined adjusted actual income of both parents and determines the basic child support obligation depending on the number of children. Adjusted actual income means actual income minus preexisting reasonable child support obligations actually paid and alimony or maintenance obligations actually paid. The schedule is only used if the total combined adjusted actual income of both parents is $180,000 or less. When both parents have the child more than 35% of the overnights, the basic child support obligation is multiplied by 1.5 and then multiplied again by the percentage of time each child spends with the parent. Then the non-custodial parent pays his/her share of the child support to the other parent.
End of Child Support Obligations in Maryland
The obligation to pay child support usually ends once the child turns 18. Although the obligation to pay may extend further if the child has reached the age of 18 and is still enrolled in high school. This obligation will end if the child dies, if the child marries, if the child is emancipated, or the person graduates from or is no longer enrolled in high school. Once the child is 19, he/she is determined to be an adult and of legal age and this ends the obligation of child support.
Eligibility to Receive Child Support in Maryland
The parent of the child is not the only one who is eligible to apply for child support. An aunt, uncle, grandparents, guardian can also apply for child support if they are considered a custodian of the minor child. In addition, if the child is born out of wedlock, a non-custodial parent may also apply for child support. A custodian usually refers to a person who has physical or legal custody of the child; therefore, a non-custodial parent is someone who did not receive physical or legal custody from the court.
Liability for Child Support in Maryland
Both parents are liable for their court ordered child support. If a parent is not paying a court ordered payment of child support, a contempt petition may be filed. Non-parents are usually not liable for child support.
Enforcing a Child Support Order in Maryland
There are certain child support mechanisms to try and collect child support: court order for full-time employment, or two jobs, tax refund intercepted, lottery interception, loss of professional license, loss of driver’s license, reported to credit bureau, civil contempt proceeding, liens on personal property, etc. If a parent has the ability to pay, but has willfully not paid, the court can find the parent in contempt of court and the parent can face possible jail time.
Modification of Child Support Order in Maryland
Child support payments can be modified. In order to modify the payments, the parent has to show the court a material change of circumstance. This circumstance must be material or substantial. If there is a change of 25% or more from the guidelines, there is a rebuttable presumption that there is a material change in circumstance. A parent cannot involuntarily impoverish him/herself. This refers to a parent who voluntarily takes a lower income job or quits a job to try and get out of paying his/her child support payments. The courts consider several factors, such as the parent’s efforts to retain employment or whether the parent has ever withheld support in the past. If a parent is voluntarily impoverished, the court determines the child support payment based on potential income. According to Maryland statute, potential income means income attributed to a parent determined by the parent’s employment potential and probable earnings level based on, but not limited to, recent work history, occupational qualifications, prevailing job opportunities and earnings levels in the community.
Child Support Attorney in Maryland
An attorney can help you with many of these child support issues. An attorney can draft an estimate of child support payments from each parent. An attorney may also help a parent enforce child support payments from the non-paying parent. An attorney may also help the non-paying parent when courts are using the various methods of enforcing child support. The attorney can better explain child support issues based shared physical custody, sole custody, or any other individual case. The attorney may also better explain the complex legal terms such as involuntary impoverishment.