My Ex-Spouse Was Named as Our Children’s Primary Custodial Parent. Can I Still Get an Award of Child Support in Maryland?

A prolific writer, director and producer of Hollywood films and TV shows who died in 2006 is credited with originating a now-popular catchphrase that one should “never assume” because of the potential perils that await those that do. That good advice can apply to family law. There may be certain things that you think you know about Maryland family law. Sometimes, though, what you think you know is wrong. You are better off not assuming. Instead, consult an experienced Maryland family law attorney and get the knowledgeable answers you need.

One popular assumption relates to child support, That general assumptions says that, in cases where one parent has primary physical and sole legal custody of the children, either the other parent will be the one paying child support or neither parent will be paying child support.

That is not always the way thing really work, though, as a recent child support case from Montgomery County demonstrates. The father in the case was an executive vice president for a trade organization and, at the time of the divorce, made roughly $1.3 million per year, with a bonus of $250,000. The mother had spent much of the marriage as stay-at-home mom but was a certified teacher. She was making $50,000 per year in a teaching position at the time of the divorce.

At the end of the couple’s child custody trial, the court award sole legal and primary physical custody to the father. The mother received access to the children two weekdays per week, every other weekend and certain designated holidays.

Despite that custody decision, the court nevertheless imposed a substantial child support obligation on the father. The judge ordered the father to pay the mother $6,500 per month in child support, which was on top of the $8,500 per month in indefinite alimony that the court had ordered the father to pay the mother.

The father argued on appeal that, under Maryland law, a non-custodial parent like this mother was not entitled to receive child support unless she proved that she was contributing to the welfare of her children “to the maximum extent possible.”

The father’s appeal was not successful. There are several factors that permitted a parent like this mother to receive child support payments despite being a non-custodial parent. One was that this was an “above Guidelines” case. Maryland law has instituted a set of Guidelines for the calculation of child support, but those Guidelines only go up to $15,000 per month in combined parental income. This couple’s combined monthly income was more than $110,000 per month, making this a case far above the Guidelines’ range.

When that happens, the law says that the trial court may use its discretion in setting a proper amount of child support. Specifically, Maryland says that the trial judge “may employ any rational method that promotes the general objectives of the child support Guidelines and considers the particular facts of the case.”

The amount of time spent with each parent also plays a vital role

Another key factor was the amount of access the non-custodial parent is awarded. Obviously, if the non-custodial parent has the children for a significant amount of time, then she will incur substantial child care expenses when she has the children. If she has both significant access and an income vastly far below that of the custodial parent, then that may create a scenario where an award of child support to the non-custodial parent is appropriate. That is proper in order to try to “ensure some level of parity between households.”

In this case, the mother had the children for a significant amount of time, as the court orders gave her access to the children more than 35% of the time. She made between $4,000 and $5,000 per month, as compared to the husband’s $100,000+ per month. In a scenario like this, where the access percentages were this close and the income disparities were this large, a non-custodial parent definitely can obtain an award of child support.

Don’t assume you know the answer to what will happen with regard to your child custody or child support issue. Instead, get reliable advice from a skilled professional you can trust. Count on the experienced Maryland family law attorneys at Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC to provide you with the knowledgeable advice and powerful advocacy your case deserves. To learn more about how we can assist you, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.

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