Ending a relationship is never easy, especially when children are involved. In Maryland both parents, whether or not they were ever married, are obligated to support their children upon the dissolution of the parents' partnership. Since 1990, Maryland has provided a formula for calculating each parent's financial obligation based on their income. The goal in offering these guidelines is to ensure that children bear as little negative impact as possible as a result of their parents' split.
Who Pays Child Support in Maryland?
Payments for child support in Maryland are dictated first and foremost by who is the primary custodial parent of the children. Generally speaking, the non-custodial parent will make child support payments to the custodial parent. This can change depending on each parent's income, or if the parents share physical custody of the children-- here meaning that the children stay overnight with each parent for more than 92 nights, or 25% of the year.
Once custody is determined, child support payments are based on what's called an income shares model. This means that the parents' actual incomes are combined, and support is allocated proportionally out of that combined pot. For example, if one parent makes $4,000 a month and the other parent makes $6,000 a month, the first parent will pay 40% of the children's expenses and the second will pay 60%.
How Much Does Each Parent Pay?
"Actual income" is a term that encompasses income from any source, including bonuses, rent paid on properties owned, dividends from investments, and self-employment. It does not include benefits from means-tested public assistance programs such as SNAP or Supplemental Security Income, but it does include payments from unemployment assistance or other government payments such as the COVID-19 stimulus checks.
If the parents' combined monthly actual income amounts to less than $15,000, the court will use the Maryland Child Support Guidelines to set an appropriate amount of support. These guidelines take into consideration not only income but who pays for the children's health insurance, the amount of time the children spend with each parent, work-related childcare costs, medical expenses such as psychological counseling or physical therapy, and any other expenses such as private school tuition. The Maryland Department of Human Resources has an online calculator which is available to anyone: http://www.dhr.state.md.us/CSOCGuide/App/disclaimer.do.
If the parents’ total actual monthly income is more than $15,000, the court may use an extension of the Guidelines or engage in a "needs-based" analysis of the situation to award child support payments. Whatever your financial status is, if you're seeking child support in Maryland, you'll need to submit a financial statement to the court. You could be charged with perjury if you lie about your income, so it's important to fill it out accurately and completely.
Does This Have to Be Decided in Court?
The short answer is no. If you and your partner can agree to child support payments and include this agreement in your divorce papers or separation agreement, the court shouldn't need to get involved. Be aware that any agreement that absolves one parent completely of child support responsibilities may not stand up in court if a judge decides the agreement doesn't act in the child's best interests.
Where Can I Learn More?
The Maryland Department of Human Services has more information about child support here: https://dhs.maryland.gov/child-support-services/. It's also in your and your children's best interests that you consult an experienced family law attorney during your separation process-- even if your divorce is amicable, an attorney will be able to explain your options and what's required of each parent in order to make the transition to a two-household life smooth for everyone involved.
Get Help Negotiating Child Support in Maryland from The Attorneys at Lebovitz Law, LLC
Need help negotiating child support in Maryland? The Attorneys at Lebovitz Law are here to help! We have access not only to the sasi-calc, the same software that the courts use to determine child support, but also to the sasi-calc algorithm that extrapolates beyond the $15,000 to give as a child support amount. To learn more about how we can assist you, please contact us today.