How Maryland Courts Calculate Child Support

Picture of two children to show how Maryland Courts Calculate Child SupportIt’s hard to argue against a case for child support. Afterall, who doesn’t want the best for their child? But when separating from a spouse or partner with whom you have a child, the topic of support is anything but straightforward. However, if you live in Maryland, one aspect of it is. You have no control over the formula used to calculate Maryland child support.

Maryland uses a formula called the Maryland Child Support Guidelines for determining child support. What is the formula? Are there exceptions? Read on to learn exactly how to calculate Maryland child support, what child support should cover, when it’s appropriate to amend support, and why you need to hire a child support lawyer.

Reasons to Hire a Child Support Lawyer

Let’s start with hiring a lawyer, because you’re probably wondering why you need a family law lawyer if Maryland has a child support formula. While you don’t have control over the formula, you do have control over its inputs, potential amendments, and enforcement — if you hire a good lawyer.

Here are just a few reasons why having a family law lawyer is in your best interest during your child support case.

  1. Hiring a lawyer will help ensure the information entered into Maryland’s formula is accurate. Whether you’re expecting to pay or receive child support, a lawyer will assist in determining the amount awarded is appropriate.
  2. There are nuances to Maryland’s child support guidelines that only your lawyer will know.
  3. This is a big one. Does your ex have a lawyer? If so, it’s critical that you hire a lawyer to protect your own rights and avoid being taken to the bank.
  4. Has one of your incomes changed since child support was established by a Court? You will need a lawyer to determine if the change qualifies for a modification to child support as well as take you through this legal process.

What Does Maryland Child Support Cover?

In child support cases, Maryland uses an “income shares” model. The income shares model is based on the concept that the child should receive the same proportion of parental income that the child would have received in an intact family. In other words, how much the parents would have spent on the child if they were still together. Just because you are separating, doesn’t mean it should financially impact your child.

Expenses should cover the following for the child(ren) only:

  • Child care expenses
  • Health insurance coverage
  • Medical expenses that fall outside of health insurance but are still reasonable expenses (e.g., braces)
  • Educational expenses
  • Travel expenses

For how long, you ask? Until your child reaches the age of 18 or graduates from high school – whichever comes first.

How to Calculate Maryland Child Support

The guidelines take into account both parents' income, how many minor children are in the family, the cost of health insurance for the children, the access schedule for each parent, and the costs of child care and extraordinary medical expenses.

But the most important information when calculating the amount is how much you (and your ex) earn in income. Child support is based on the monthly gross income of each party (before taxes). And income is not just your salary. It includes:

  • Salaries and wages
  • Commissions and bonuses
  • Dividend income, pension income, interest income, trust income, and annuity income
  • Social Security benefits, workers' compensation benefits, unemployment insurance benefits, and disability insurance benefits
  • Alimony or maintenance received

Should you stop working to avoid child support?

This is a big no no. If you or your spouse stops working to avoid child support, the court can consider that parent to be “voluntarily impoverished,” and will still treat that parent as if they are earning income. The court will impute income by looking at the following factors:

  1. The parent’s age, condition, education, training and skills, residence, employment and salary history, criminal record and/or other barriers to employment
  2. Opportunities in the community and the job market
  3. Assets
  4. Income from all sources
  5. Other factors impacting the ability to obtain funds

Maryland Child Support Calculator

Maryland’s department of human resources has an estimator you can use to calculate Maryland child support, but here’s the gist of it:

  1. Figure out each parent’s actual income. (see above)
  2. Figure out each parent’s adjusted actual income (or imputed income). This is the actual income minus any pre-existing child support for other children or alimony being paid.
  3. Add these up.
  4. Plug this amount into the Maryland Guidelines chart to determine the basic child support obligation.
  5. Next, factor in the additional expenses (e.g., health insurance, daycare, medical expenses not covered by insurance) as well as a self-support reserve, so you can maintain a minimum monthly income. This will create your total child support obligation.

If one parent has primary physical custody of the child(ren) and the other parent has less than 92 overnights then the primary physical custody guidelines worksheet will be used to calculate Maryland child support. If you have shared physical custody then the shared physical custody guidelines worksheet should be used.

If you hire a lawyer, your attorney should have the more formal version of the child support calculator available for you to use in your case.

Adjusting Existing Child Support

Many clients ask me: If child support is based on income, is the amount adjusted every time income is? Not quite. A normal raise or a holiday bonus won’t affect support. The change in income needs to be a "substantial material change" to justify a modification of the child support amount that is also in your child/ren's best interests.

My advice: get it right the first time. Contact me for a consultation at (301) 637-6070 or by using my online contact form to schedule a consultation. Want more info on Maryland child custody laws? Follow me on Instagram at @dwhittenlaw for legal tips and honest advice, or check out my Maryland child support FAQS.