Child Support Law FAQ | Zirkin & Schmerling Law

Maryland Child Support FAQ

maryland child support questions

Parents are often nervous about the Maryland child support process and wonder how much they’ll be ordered to pay. There are many factors involved and the complexity of the calculation calls for the insight of an experienced Maryland child support lawyer.

If you have questions about child support in Maryland, we’re here to help. Below, the team at Zirkin & Schmerling Law answers common questions about child support. However, every family is unique, so please call us 24/7 at 410-753-4611 or schedule your free consultation online for information about your specific situation.

How is Child Support Calculated in Maryland?

The Maryland Child Support Guidelines are set forth in Maryland Code § 12-101.  The Guidelines all stem from the concept that parents are responsible for a child and the child should receive the same level of parental income support as they would have received in an intact family.

This is known as the “income shares model” and means child support is based on the “conbined adjusted income” of each parent.  This is a calculation of each parent’s monthly net income which factors in inthe number of minor children involved, as well as other monthly expenses.  “Monthly expenses” includes things like health insurance, work-related childcare, travel, education, and extraordinary medical expenses. The amount of time each child spends with each parent (whether through a formal custody and visitation order or not) is also taken into account. An online Child Support Calculator may be found on the DHS website here.

What is Viewed as Income When Child Support is Calculated?

In Maryland, income for child support is defined as a parent’s money that comes from any source, including their paycheck and many other sources. This includes work wages, salaries, tips, bonuses, commissions, trusts, annuities, pensions, dividends, interest, workers’ compensation, social security, disability, alimony, and government benefits. Even if a parent is unemployed, they may be assigned child support based on their potential level of income, or any unemployment benefits the parent is receiving. “Potential level of income” is often determined by how much a parent was earning before unemployment.

Can My Child’s Other Parent Stop Working and Avoid Paying Child Support?

As described above, Maryland’s courts will determine a parent’s potential income and assign the payment of child support even if the parent is currently unemployed. Similarly, if a parent voluntarily quits their job to avoid paying child support, the court can continue to treat them as a potentially employable person who still owes child support. The term for it in Maryland’s legal system is “voluntarily impoverished,” meaning the parent chose not to work, despite having continuing child support obligations. If the court finds a parent “voluntarily impoverished,” child support obligations will be calculated based on “imputed income.”  Factors determine “voluntary impoverishment” include the parent’s physical health, level of education, work history, ability to earn money ,and efforts to find employment.

What if My Child’s Other Parent is Wealthy and Should Owe More Child Support?

If the combined monthly income of both parents is $15,000 and below, child support is calculated using a table found in the Maryland Family Law Article (Md. Code, Family Law Section 12-204(e), to be exact).  If the combined monthly  adjusted actual income of both parents exceeds $15,000, the court may use its discretion to determine the amount of child support.. Talk to your family lawyer about your concerns regarding the other spouse’s income and the child support calculation.

Does Physical Custody Impact Child Support?

The child’s physical custody and custodial shared time arrangements are taken into consideration when the court establishes child support. If one parent has primary physical custody and the other parent has 128 overnights per year or fewer, the court will use a Maryland Physical Custody Guidelines Worksheet to calculate child support.

A 50/50 shared custody arrangement, for example, uses the Shared Physical Custody Guidelines Worksheet. In plain language, this means yes – physical custody does impact child support but in terms of exactly how it varies by situation.

Can Child Support be Modified in Maryland?

Child support can be modified, but the parent seeking a modification must establish that there is cause for changing the child support order due to a “material change in circumstance.” This means to seek and secure an increase or decrease in child support, a parent must provide proof of a change in income or show that the child has new expensive medical needs or another circumstance that warrants a support change.

Do Stepparents Have to Pay Child Support in Maryland?

No. In Maryland, stepparents don’t have a legal financial obligation to provide child support for stepchildren. They may provide informal support if they wish, but it wouldn’t be handled through the Maryland child support system.

Will My Child’s Daycare or Other Childcare Factor Into Child Support?

Work-related childcare expenses are a factor in establishing monetary support in Maryland child support cases. This includes daycare, before and after school care, babysitters, and some other situations where childcare is required due to the parent’s work schedule. Nannies and childcare costs for non-work-related reasons are rarely approved by the courts.

Will I Pay Less Child Support if I Provide Health Insurance for My Child?

Health insurance is a factor that the courts consider when setting a child support amount. Each parent is required to contribute to the cost of the child’s healthcare, so when one parent pays for the child’s health insurance, they are credited with this amount when calculating child support payments.

What are Extraordinary Medical Expenses?

Uninsured expenses that are still medically necessary for the child are called extraordinary medical expenses. This includes costs that arise from unexpected circumstances like a car accident or disease, but may also include large expenses that are vital to the child’s ability to thrive. Examples include orthodontia, physical therapy, and mental health counseling. The court will require proof of these costs before adjusting the child support order.

Does Child Support End the Day My Child Turns 18?

While the terms “minor child” and “age of majority” or “until the age of 18” are often used to determine child support, a child’s 18th birthday is not a strict cut off.  In Maryland, a parent is required to pay child support until the age of 18.  But, if the child is 18 years old and still enrolled in high school, the parent must continue to pay child support until the first of any of the following events occur: 

  • The child turns 19
  • The child is no longer enrolled in high school (either through graduation or dropping out)
  • The child marries
  • The child dies
  • The child is emancipated

Additionally, if the child has a disability which prevents the child from working and/or support themselves, parents have a continuing duty to provide an adult disabled child with food, shelter, care, and clothing.   And while courts cannot automatically order a parent to provide for an able-bodied, adult child past the age of majority, courts can enforce an existing contractual obligation between the parents.  For example, many parents sign a consent agreement as part of divorce or separation proceedings that includes provisions on college tuition and higher education costs.  If that agreement was incorporated into a consent order by the court, it’s considered an enforceable contract.   Have a Legal Question? We Have Answers

The team at Zirkin & Schmerling Law has been handling family law cases for decades and has a track record of working diligently for Maryland families. For more assistance, please call us 24/7 at 410-356-4455 or schedule your free consultation online with one of our experienced child support and family lawyers today.