Child Support in Maryland
When parents divorce, one of the most pressing issues is child custody and support.
Under Maryland law, child support continues until a minor child turns 18. It may be extended to the age of 19 if the child receiving support is still attending high school. Any past-due child support will not be waived, regardless of the age of the child. In most cases, support obligations can be collected through withholding orders, which ensures prompt payments by the custodial party, and accurate payment tracking.
Maryland uses a formula to calculate child support called the Child Support Guidelines (“Guidelines”). In most cases, the court will order child support based on the Guidelines, unless an interested party can show that the Guidelines would be unjust and inappropriate in a particular case.
In general, the custodial parent – the parent with primary physical custody of the child or children – will receive child support. The non-custodial parent – the one who does not have primary physical custody of the children – will pay child support. This can change over time, depending on the income of each parent.
Recent Changes to Maryland’s Child Support Law
As of July 1, 2022, there are several significant changes to Maryland’s child support law. These include an increase in the income threshold that is subject to the Child Support Guidelines, a statutory definition of the term “Voluntary Impoverishment,” and new statutory authority that gives a court or judge discretion to not award child support.
Increased Income Threshold
There continues to be a rebuttable presumption that the amount of child support derived from Maryland’s Child Support Guidelines is the proper amount of child support, and the Court is to use the Guidelines in cases where the combined income of the parties falls within them. If the parents’ combined income exceeds the highest level specified in the schedule, the court may use its discretion in setting the amount of child support.
Until June 30, 2022, the Maryland Guidelines mandatorily and presumptively applied to parents who had combined monthly incomes ranging from $100 to $15,000. Effective July 1, 2022, parents who have combined monthly incomes ranging from $15,000 to $30,000 are subject to the Guidelines.
Definition of Voluntary Impoverishment
Prior to the statutory change, the large body of case law in Maryland was used by the court to determine what constitutes “voluntary impoverishment” when determining whether to impute (assign a value to) income to a parent who opted to work in a job below their earning potential. However, “voluntary impoverishment” is now defined under the child support statute. Specifically, a parent is considered to be“voluntarily impoverished” if they “made the free and conscious choice, not compelled by factors beyond the parent’s control, to render the parent without adequate resources.”
If the court determines that a parent is voluntarily impoverished, it will weigh a number of factors to determine the amount of potential income that should be imputed to the parent. The factors set forth in the amended law, which can be thought of as a parent’s potential income, include the parent’s:
- Physical and behavioral condition
- Educational attainment
- Special training or skills
- Occupational qualifications and job skills
- Employment and earnings history
- Record of efforts to obtain and retain employment
- Criminal record and other employment barriers
- Employment opportunities in the community where the parent lives, including the status of the job market, prevailing earnings levels and availability of employers willing to hire the parent
- The parent’s assets
- The parent’s actual income from all sources
- Any other factors bearing on the parent’s ability to obtain funds for child support
The Court May Decline to Order Child Support
Under certain circumstances, the law now specifically provides the court with the authority to decline to order child support if the parent who would be obligated to pay it lives with the minor child and is contributing to the support of the child.
Additionally, under the amended statute the court may decline to order child support if the parent who would be obligated to pay support meets the following criteria:
- Is unemployed;
- Has no financial resources from which to pay child support;
- Is incarcerated and is expected to remain incarcerated for the remainder of the time that the parent would have a legal duty to support the child;
- Is institutionalized in a psychiatric care facility and is expected to remain institutionalized for the remainder of the time that the parent would have a legal duty to support the child;
- Is totally and permanently disabled, is unable to obtain or maintain employment, and has no income other than Supplemental Security Income or Social Security disability insurance benefits; or
- Is unable to obtain or maintain employment in the foreseeable future due to compliance with criminal detainment, hospitalization, or a rehabilitation treatment plan.
Modifications to Child Support
Over the course of a minor child’s life, family circumstances may change dramatically. Changes may include a parent’s loss of a job, significant salary increase, disability or incarceration. These changes may necessitate modifications to the child support situation.
Modifications do not happen automatically, and one of the parents must file a written motion requesting a change to the support order alleging a material change in the child support situation.
Being In Arrears with Child Support Payment
If you are more than 60 days in arrears in your child support payment, there are mechanisms for Maryland’s Child Support Enforcement Administration to notify the Motor Vehicle Administration and have your driver’s license suspended.
Take the First Step – Call a Bethesda Child Custody Attorney for a Child Support Consultation
In many cases, it’s not an understatement to say that the quality of your child’s life is dependent upon getting the right child support. A Bethesda child custody attorney can help you get the right result. Call 240-395-1418, or email us today.