There are child support guidelines that govern how child support is awarded in Maryland. The guidelines require that a trial court determine each parent’s monthly adjusted income.
Before October 1, 2010, the child support would be calculated with the guidelines only if the parents’ monthly income did not equal $10,000 or more when added together. If the parents had more than $10,000 monthly income, the court exercised its discretion. After October 2010, the sum was increased to a $15,000 monthly income.
Under Maryland law, a child who is eighteen and enrolled in secondary school has the right to receive support until one of the follow occurs: (1) he or she graduates, (2) he or she turns 19, (3) he or she is emancipated or (4) he or she marries. While the conditions are relatively clear, a 2012 case considered what the statute means by “secondary school”.
In that case, a couple divorced in 2005. In 2009, the two reached an agreement on child support such that the father would pay child support to the mother until the child reached 18 years of age or graduated from high school. Later that year, the child began living with the father because he didn’t abide by the mother’s rules.
The father stopped paying child support to the mother. He asked the court to order the mother to pay child support until the child reached age 18 or graduated from high school and reimburse him for overpaying child support during months when the child lived with him. In spring of 2010, the child went to live with his mother again. He didn’t meet his graduation requirements and didn’t graduate.
The court heard the father’s motion in 2011 and said that child support extended to age 19 or high school graduation ,whichever came first. If the child was working towards graduation, then the support would terminate when he turned 19 (which was about a week from the hearing date in 2011). The court granted the motion, but also required the father to pay a child support balance of over $7000.00.
Next month, the father asked the court to reconsider, arguing that his child support obligation should have been terminated when the child failed to graduate high school and calculating his child support according to October 2010 guidelines, instead of the guidelines that had existed at the time. The court denied the motion.
The father appealed. The appellate court considered a variety of cases and secondary sources for the definition of secondary school. It was defined as school beyond elementary school but not adult education. The court concluded that secondary school was a high school equivalency program.
The appellate court noted that the child in question had failed to graduate on time, but he re-registered for the spring 2011 semester and did ultimately receive a diploma the following year after turning 19. Therefore, the father was responsible for child support payments until he turned 19.
The appellate court also noted that the trial court had discretion in setting the amount of child support because his parents’ monthly income exceeded both $10,000 (the pre-October 2010 standard) and $15,000 (the post-October 2010 standard). The goal was to make sure the child didn’t suffer financially as a result of his parent’s divorce.
If you are dealing with complicated family law matters, your child’s well being may depend on hiring a qualified and knowledgeable attorney who can navigate the rules for you. Contact lawyer Anthony Fatemi and his legal team for a legal consultation.
Maryland Court Rules Parent Cannot Bargain Away Child Support Without Court Approval, Maryland Divorce Lawyer Blog, May 16, 2013
Maryland Court Decides Railroad Retirement Benefit Case, Maryland Divorce Lawyer Blog, May 11, 2013