Parents cannot make agreements not to support their children in Maryland. Parents are legally obligated to support their child in an amount proportionate to their gross earnings. In making determinations about children and child support, the court looks at the child’s best interest. The Child Support Guidelines tell parents how child support is calculated in Maryland. A child support formula is used for the calculation unless the court is persuaded by one of the parties that the guidelines are unfair.
This formula is applied so that the person with primary physical custody of the child or children receives child support from the non-custodial parent. If the parents share physical custody such that each parent keeps the children for more than 35% of the year, the issue of child support may be decided differently.
The guidelines provide multiple factors for the court to determine child support. This includes both parents’ actual monthly income. This includes workers’ compensation benefits, alimony, and other income. It doesn’t include certain types of governmental assistance like food stamps or Supplemental Security income. The guidelines also look at each parent’s adjusted actual income, where pre-existing child support is subtracted from the adjusted actual income.
Other factors include child care expenses while a parent is at work, the cost of health insurance premiums, extraordinary medical expenses not covered by insurance (such as psychological counseling), and the requesting party’s financial statement. The financial statement is signed under oath and gives the court a fuller financial picture of the parent who is requesting support.
You should be aware that if you could work, but choose not to, you may still be treated as having income. The court may find you are “voluntarily impoverished.” In more acrimonious divorces, it is possible for one parent to assert that the other parent is voluntarily impoverished by proving his or her physical health, education level, work history, and efforts to find a job.
The child support guidelines estimate the income that the parents would spend on their children if they were living together in one household. Accordingly, they add up the adjusted actual incomes to get a basic child support obligation and then factor in additional expenses like insurance and medical costs to get a total child support obligation.
The court will only adjust the Guidelines calculation downward if you can show it would be in your child’s best interest to lower the amount and that it is unfair to you if it is a particular sum. An example of a good reason to lower the amount would be where a noncustodial parent needs to lower the support amount in order to use the money to get better training to have a stable income.
The court may adjust the calculated amount upward only if the amount of both parents’ income is higher than $15,000 per month (or $180,000/year per parent). In that situation, the court can deviate from the guidelines and set the child support based on the children’s needs.
Child support and paternity present sensitive issues that require special care. Contact an experienced Maryland family law attorney for representation and legal guidance.
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