Maryland Divorce FAQ’s – Child Support

This is about child support in Maryland after divorce, including how child support gets figured, how parents can change child support, when the court orders for child support to be withheld from paychecks, and when the court will deviate from child support guidelines in Maryland.

This information is from James J. Gross, the DivorceInfo Network Lawyer for Maryland. Click here to visit his firm’s web site.

How does child support get figured?

The child support guidelines are based on the “income shares” model in Maryland. This model is a formula based on the relative and combined income of the parties, the number of children, and the time spent with the children.

The guidelines provide for an adjustment for health insurance and day care for the children and assume that the non-custodial parent pays for the children when they are with him or her during normal visitation. If there are any extraordinary expenses (medical, educational, etc.) then the support could be higher than the guidelines. In addition to child support, the court can order you to provide such things as health insurance and can allocate tax exemptions.

The Office of Child Support Enforcement has a web site with all the information you need to figure your own child support in Maryland and print the forms you will need. Click here to get started.

How do you change child support?

Child support always remains subject to the court’s jurisdiction to modify it. The court will modify a prior support order if there has been a material change in circumstances and modification is in the child’s best interest.

Many things can amount to a material change in circumstances. Some of the more common changes are a child reaches the age at which support ends, a child changes residence from one parent to the other, one parent’s income increases, or decreases substantially, or the custodial parent moves to an area with a substantially higher, or lower, cost of living.

Either parent can file a Petition to Modify Child Support with the court, which requires payment of the filing fee applicable in the county where the petition is filed. The smart way to manage child support, if you and the other parent are cooperative and talking to each other, is simply to share your 1040’s each year and recalculate child support informally. If you find out that it’s time for it to change, you can simply have one lawyer prepare a Joint Petition to Modify Child Support and a Consent Order that you both sign and file.

It is not smart to simply begin paying an amount lower than that determined by the court. If you’re the payor, and you begin paying a lower amount, any time the other parent gets angry with you, or just needs more money, he or she can go back to court and recover the deficiency, no matter how many times he or she may have assured you that it was okay for you to pay less.

Does child support get deducted from the payor’s paycheck? How?

Child support will be deducted from your paycheck through an earnings withholding order, and paid through the registry of the court, unless both spouse agree otherwise. The earnings withholding order is served on the payor’s employer. The child support is deducted from the payor’s paycheck and paid directly to the court, which in turn pays it directly to the recipient.

When will the court allow a deviation from the guidelines?

The trial court may deviate from the child support guidelines only when there is a good reason for doing so. The judge has to consider the guidelines first and then state in his opinion why a deviation is justified. Examples of reasons for departing from the guidelines might include that one party is paying the mortgage for the marital residence, that college expenses will be paid, or that there are children from a new marriage to support.

Also, the guidelines only go to $120,000 in combined income per year in Maryland. When the income exceeds the guidelines, the court will look at the needs of the children; and the financial assets, earnings, and needs of each parent.

Other issues in Maryland: