A brief summary of important Maryland child support laws

Beginning in 1990, the state of Maryland implemented child support guidelines that family courts now use to examine each parent’s gross income and determine their individual level of support obligation. Courts are required to use this rather formulaic approach unless a party can demonstrate that the application of that calculation would be inappropriate or unjust.

Child support orders are long-lasting. In most cases, the obligation created by court-ordered child support extends until the child reaches the age of 18 years, dies or becomes emancipated. The reality is that many people who are ordered to pay child support may experience significant events in their lives that may affect their ability or obligation to pay.

For example, a parent may suffer an accident or illness that prevents them from working. Obviously, it would be unjust to require individuals suffering from such circumstances to maintain support payments at their previous levels.

Another scenario might include the custodial parent abandoning the child to the care of other family members. In that case, the child support order would be inappropriate and should be modified so that the support goes to the child’s actual caregiver.

It is also important to know that Maryland courts recognize that child support can come in other forms than just money. For example, a parent paying for the child’s daycare can offer those payments as proof of some support. Additionally, a parent providing medical, dental or eye care for the child may be entitled to an offset in his or her support order.

If you are a Maryland parent currently facing a child support dilemma, there are a few things you should know. Family courts recognize that substantial lifestyle changes can sometimes affect your ability to pay. Courts also recognize that a parent who provides for the primary care and housing of a child should have his or her support obligations adjusted accordingly. Your Maryland family law attorney can assist you in developing a legal strategy to help you modify your support order so that it reflects a fair and appropriate obligation.

Source: The People’s law library of Maryland, “Legal overview of child support” Jan. 01, 2015