Child Support

Every child has a right to receive support from both parents even if the parents are separated or divorced. Our child support lawyers can help you figure out the right amount of financial, medical and emotional support that should be ordered by the court.

In fact, parents are obligated to support their children if they have or reasonably could obtain, the means to do so. Maryland law also requires a parent to alter their lifestyle if necessary to enable the parent to meet his or her support obligation.

Your child support lawyers can help determine factors that might impact the amount of support that you will be required to pay. In some cases, the court will make deviations and adjustments to the guideline amount. The amount you pay can be higher or lower based on these adjustments.

Skilled child support lawyers can apply the guidelines in your case and show where adjustments need to be made.

Child Support Work Sheet Schedules

After more than 18 years spent representing Maryland clients in family law matters, our attorneys have gathered significant knowledge regarding the guidelines. Because every case is different, there is no one solution. For your benefit, we include plenty of resources on the Maryland child support guidelines, including:

  • The Maryland family law statutes, specifically sections 12-201 through 12-204
  • Worksheet A (for primary physical custody to one parent) — PDF download
  • Worksheet B (for shared physical custody) — PDF download

Even if you plan on doing most of the work yourself, there’s always a good reason to consult with a family law attorney who can help guide you through the process.

Maryland’s Child Support Calculator

You can find many different online child support calculators in Maryland. If you use one of these tools (like the Maryland Department of Human Resources calculator), you can estimate how much you should expect to pay (or receive) in child support payments.

The judge, however, will adjust up or down based on a variety of factors spelled out in the guidelines. The appropriate amount of child support payments is based on a range of income levels as well as the number of children.

The Maryland child support guidelines include many factors, nearly all of which are geared toward what it costs to raise a child. The guidelines are meant to establish fairness after parents separate and are no longer living under one roof, but must share responsibility in parenting. Contact us at 443-709-9999 for a free initial consultation.

When a trial court arrives at the amount of child support by applying the Child Support Guidelines, “[t]here is a rebuttable presumption that the amount of child support which would result from the application of the child support guidelines set forth in this subtitle is the correct amount of child support to be awarded.” F.L. § 12–202(a)(1).

An award resulting from following the Guidelines is not to be disturbed unless the trial court abused its discretion. The trial court’s interpretation of law is reviewed by the appellate court, which must determine whether the trial court’s conclusions are “legally correct” under a de novo standard of review.

Deviation from Maryland’s Child Support Guidelines

Once the circuit court determines the child support obligations under the guidelines, the court has some discretion to deviate from the guidelines.

First, modification of child support is only proper if there has been a material change in circumstance. The change must be (1) “relevant to the level of support a child is actually receiving or entitled to receive[,]” and (2) “of a sufficient magnitude to justify judicial modification of the support order.” Petitto v. Petitto, 147 Md.App. 280, 307 (2002).

Second, although Maryland uses the child support guidelines to determine how much child support a child is entitled to receive, the circuit court may deviate from those guidelines if it finds application of the guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate.” No precise rubric exists for determining what constitutes unjust or inappropriate. Instead, the trial court may consider:

  1. the terms of any existing separation or property settlement agreement or court order, including any provisions for payment of mortgages or marital debts, payment of college education expenses, the terms of any use and possession order or right to occupy the family home under an agreement, any direct payments made for the benefit of the children required by agreement or order, or any other financial considerations set out in an existing separation or property settlement agreement or court order; and
  2. 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.

FL § 12–202(a)(2)(iii).

No list of factors or considerations, however, could identify every situation in which the application of guidelines would produce an unjust or inappropriate result. Instead, the considerations listed in the statute provide a framework for judges to use. The courts have noted that the factors contained in [FL] § 12–202(a)(2)(iii) delineate situations that affect the financial resources of the parents or the financial needs of the children.

If the circuit court concludes that application of the guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate, then the court must then make the following specific findings:

  1. The amount of child support that would have been required under the guidelines;
  2. How the order varies from the guidelines;
  3. How the finding serves the best interests of the child; and
  4. In cases in which items of value are conveyed instead of a portion of the support … the estimated value of the items conveyed.

FL § 12–202(a)(v)(2). To deviate from the guidelines, therefore, the circuit court must first determine that application of the guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate, and then make the four required findings that include explaining how the deviation is in the best interest of the children. FL § 12–202(a).

Determining the Actual Income of Each Parent

When making a child support determination, the trial court must ascertain the parties’ actual incomes. FL §§ 12–201, 12–204. Although there are certain things that must be included as actual income, what comprises actual income is not limited to a specific list. Actual income is not limited to the list found in FL § 12–201(b)(3)). Instead, the trial courts have the latitude to consider all the relevant circumstances in a particular case before making any determination about what should be considered in calculating a parent’s support obligation.

All of these sources of income, however, must be presently accessible. For instance, an IRA or retirement account would not normally be included as actual income for child support calculations because it is not currently accessible without substantial tax penalties. Under 26 U.S.C. § 72(t), unless an employee is 59½ years old, or meets another exemption, early withdrawals from an IRA are subject to a 10% tax. Where an individual is using an IRA as income, however, courts have found that the IRA may be counted as actual income.

After determining the actual income, the trial court then determines the basic child support obligation by finding the monthly support obligation resulting from the combined parental income listed in the Child Support Guidelines and dividing that amount between the parents based on their proportion of the combined income.

The trial court then calculates any additional expenses, including the children’s education and transportation, work-related child care, and the children’s extraordinary medical expenses, and allocates those between the parents proportionally based on their adjusted actual income. F.L. § 12–204(g)–(h). With the exception of cases where parental income exceeds the Guidelines, this process is mandatory.

Imputing Income to the Voluntarily Impoverished Parent

When calculating child support, the trial court uses the actual income of a parent to calculate that parent’s support obligation unless it finds that a parent is voluntarily impoverished. FL § 12–201(h). A parent is considered voluntarily impoverished whenever the parent has made the free and conscious choice, not compelled by factors beyond his or her control, to render himself or herself without adequate resources.

If the trial court finds that a parent is voluntarily impoverished, then the court may impute potential income to that parent. FL § 12–201(h). Although a parent may be unable to work due to factors beyond her control, if a parent has reasonable means to support her child, she must do so.

Supporting a Child Through College

A parent may become contractually obligated to support their child for a longer period of time. If the parents agree to support a child throughout college or beyond age, 19 and the parties consent to have the agreement incorporated or merged into a judgment, the court can enforce such an obligation. See Corry v. O’Neill, 105 Md. App. 112 (1995).

For parents who are considering divorce, which parent will pay for college is often a highly negotiated item in a divorce settlement. If a parent has to pay child support and the child is enrolled in college, then under Maryland law, he or she will have to pay child support until the child turns 19 instead of the typical age of majority –eighteen (18).

Requesting Retroactive Child Support in Maryland

In some cases, one parent will ask the court for retroactive child support. A parent can make the request for pendente lite and permanent child support in the complaint for absolute divorce and any merits hearing.

F.L. § 12–101 required the trial court to grant child support beginning from the date the first pleading requesting it was filed unless it finds that doing so would produce an inequitable result. The language at issue is in F.L. § 12–101, which provides the following guidance for when child support awards should begin:

(a) (1) unless the court finds from the evidence that the amount of the award will produce an inequitable result, for an initial pleading that requests child support pendente lite, the court will award child support for a period from the filing of the pleading that requests child support.

In Caccamise v. Caccamise, 130 Md.App. 505, 517–18 (2000), the Court noted that, while the trial court may award retroactive child support dating back to the filing of the pleading requesting child support, it has discretion not to do so. The court held that it was not an abuse of discretion for the trial court to deny a request for retroactive child support because even though the requesting party had custody of the child, he also made significantly more money than the other party and “his financial situation was not so dire that he could not support his child for those few months on his own.” Id. at 518.

Additional Resources

eChild Support Calculator in Maryland – Visit the Child Support  Enforcement Administration (CSEA) website to find a calculator based on the Maryland Child Support Guidelines. The calculator provides a rough estimate of the amount of child support that the court may approve under the guidelines.