When you and your spouse divorce and you two share minor children, the issue of child support will probably be one of the most important items you’ll work through. It will also be one of the areas where it’s vital to have a skilled Maryland family law attorney by your side. Here in Maryland, as elsewhere, there are a set of statutory “guidelines” that steer the court’s process of determining the proper amount of child support that a supporting parent should pay. What follows here is a brief “Q and A” to give you some greater insight into the child support guidelines process.
Q. Is the use of the guidelines mandatory?
A. As a very recent child support case from Charles County noted, while the law does not require a judge to use the guidelines, it does strongly favor the use of the guidelines to calculate child support. There is something the law calls a “rebuttable presumption” in favor of following the guidelines, meaning that the law presumes that the guidelines-dictated amount is correct, but that the presumption can be defeated if you have enough evidence in your specific case to show that the guidelines shouldn’t be followed.
Q. How does the guidelines process work?
A. The guidelines, which were created by the General Assembly in 1989, set up a formula for calculating child support. As the court’s opinion in that recent Charles County case stated, there’s also a specific way to go about using that formula. In order to “use the Guidelines, the court must first determine the adjusted actual income of each parent as well the expenses incurred in raising the child, and then apply those numbers” to the guidelines’ framework.
Q. When can my judge refrain from following the guidelines?
A. The law permits a judge to deviate from the guidelines if that judge determines that there is adequate proof that following the guidelines in that specific case would create a result that was “unjust or inappropriate.” The court must make detailed findings in its order about why deviation was proper in order for that order to survive an appeal.
Q. What happens if our combined incomes are too high to use the guidelines?
A. The current Maryland child support guidelines only go up to $15,000 per month in combined income. If you and your ex-spouse make more than that combined, then yours is what the law calls an “above-guidelines” case. When that happens, the statutes say that the “court may use its discretion” to determine the proper child support amount.
The Court of Appeals stated some years ago that, in making above-guidelines determinations, trial judges should look at “the financial circumstances of the parties, their station in life, their age and physical condition, and expenses in educating the children.”
Q. My ex-spouse has primary physical custody of our child. Does that automatically mean that I will owe child support?
A. Not necessarily. Under the guidelines, the parent with primary physical custody will receive child support in most cases, but not all. The outcome ultimately depends how much income each parent makes and how much time the child spends with each parent. If the parent with primary custody make significantly more than the non-custodial parent, then it’s possible that the parent with primary custody will not be entitled to receive any child support under the guidelines.
No two child support cases are exactly alike. Even those with similar dollar-figure amounts will have aspects that make them distinct from one another. Whether you are the parent seeking a support award or the parent paying one, you undeniably want an outcome that is fair and just, and a legal team that can get you there. When it comes to litigating your child support case, count on the diligent Maryland family law attorneys at Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC to provide you with the powerful advocacy your family deserves. To learn more about how we can assist you, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.