For all parents, whether separated or not, making sure that their children are financially supported is a top priority. When parents separate and no longer live together, they must address the issues of where the children will live and how they will be financially supported. The term “child support” refers to the financial support provided by one parent to another for their children in common when those two parents are no longer together. This article addresses three common questions that we are frequently asked about child support in Maryland.
In Maryland, child support is calculated according to the Maryland Child Support Guidelines. The Guidelines take into consideration a number of different factors in calculating a recommended amount of child support. These factors include each party’s gross (before tax) income, the number of overnights that the child spends with each parent throughout the course of the calendar year, any work-related childcare expenses incurred by either party and health insurance premiums paid to maintain health insurance for the minor child. Oftentimes, the gross income of each party and their respective amount of overnights are two of the most influential factors in determining who is obligated to pay child support and in what amount.
The short answer is yes, but it is the exception rather than the rule for the Court to deviate
from the Maryland Child Support Guidelines. In most cases, the Court will order that the child support obligation be consistent with what the Guidelines recommend. Md. Code Ann., Fam. Law § 12-202 (a) provides that the Court “shall use the child support guidelines” and that there 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.” In other words, if one parent is asking the Court to allow them to pay less child support than what the Guidelines recommend, the Court will usually decline to do so unless there are special circumstances which warrant a downward deviation from the Guidelines.
With that said, there are some situations where the Court may deviate from the recommended child support amount. Md. Code Ann., Fam. Law § 12-202 (a) (2) states that the presumption that the recommended child support amount is correct “may be rebutted by evidence that the application of the guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate in a particular case.” The statute then goes on to list certain factors that the Court may consider in determining whether or not a deviation from the recommended child support amount would be appropriate.
The obligation to pay child support begins when the Court enters an Order providing for the payment of child support by one parent to the other. Unfortunately, this may not be until several months after one parent makes their formal request to the Court for child support. In order to make that request to the Court, a parent may file a Complaint for Child Support or Complaint for Custody which includes a request for child support.
Although the parent seeking child support may not get into Court for several months after filing their Complaint, the Court does have the authority to retroactively date the child support obligation back to the date that the parent filed. For example, if a mother files a Complaint for Child Support on January 1 but does not have receive a Court Order for child support until June 1, the Court can retroactively award the mother child support dating back to January 1 when she filed. In that case, the father would be assessed 6 months of child support arrearages and that would be added to father’s monthly child support obligation moving forward.
Child support is a common, yet complex issue which must be addressed in custody cases. An experienced attorney can advise you on your rights with respect to child support and the potential amount of child support that you may be able to pay or receive. Robert Greenberg, Esq. and the law firm of Greenberg Legal Group LLC have successfully represented many clients in custody and child support cases. Our firm is located in Annapolis, Maryland and practices in Courts throughout the State of Maryland. Please contact our office at (410) 650-4242 for further assistance.