Here are some frequently asked questions about child support:
How does the Court determine WHO should pay child support and HOW MUCH should be paid?
Every parent has an obligation to support their minor child, with certain exceptions, until the child turns 18 or if a child is still at home at 18, then the obligation runs until graduation from high school or 19. Some children can be supported beyond their 19th birthday if there is proof to the Court that the child needs to continue to be financially supported by parents.
Maryland’s child support guidelines only go up to a combined income of $180,000.00. Beyond that, it is at the discretion of the court to decide the amount to award. Guidelines are based upon gross income of the parties and subject to certain deductions for mandatory expenditures. The court can only deviate from the child support guidelines upon a finding that the child support guidelines would be inappropriate or unjust (which is generally hard to obtain).
The child support guidelines can include the following expenses:
- health insurance premiums
- work-related day care expenses
- extraordinary medical expenses (defined as medical expenses over $100 for any single illness or condition),
- school expenses (only if a party can prove that the school expense is needed i.e. special needs or the child has been attending a private school).
Using the Maryland Child Support Worksheet, the court divides up each parties’ payments accordingly. Once the Court determines each party’s gross monthly income, the guidelines are reviewed to determine how much child support one parent must pay to the other parent. Thereafter, neither parent is required to provide any additional financial support to the children, if they don’t want to (such as contribution towards clothing or extracurricular activities). Obviously, we always encourage parents to support their children both emotionally and financially as much as they are able to. Even if it is more than what the court may require.
It’s very important to know that child support is not tax deductible by the payor or considered income by the payee.
When Does A Parent Have To Start Paying Child Support?
A parent should always support their children as much as they can even if there is no court order. Once a parent files for a request for child support, either through a Complaint or Counter-Complaint seeking a Divorce, Custody, or purely Child Support, the court has the discretion to order the parent required to pay child support according to the Maryland child support guidelines, and to pay it retroactively to the date the request for child support was originally filed with the court.
If the parent required to pay child support was paying child support while waiting for a hearing and the court ordered retroactive child support, they would be credited for the amount of child support they are required to pay pursuant to the court’s ruling.
Can Child Support ordered by the court be modified?
Similar to child custody, child support is always subject to court modification, but the party requesting the modification must show a substantial change in circumstances before an award is altered.
An action would need to be filed with the court, such as an Initial Request for Child Support. The court can have the child support obligation commence retroactively to the date the Request to Modify was filed with the Court.
If the only request filed is to modify child support, the process is much quicker than the initial request and is generally completed (without an agreement) within three months after the opposing party files an answer with the court.
Can a court order the parents to contribute to a child’s college expense or for other expenses beyond the child support obligation?
While the court is determining the grounds of an absolute or limited divorce and the relief being sought includes a request for custody and child support, the court can award one party use and possession of a residence that has been primarily used by the parties and the child, which is titled in one or both of their names. As part of a use and possession order, the court can require the parent who is not residing in the family home to contribute to expenses, including mortgage, associated with the family home during the use and possession period. The only time use and possession can be awarded in a case where the parties were never married is if a Petition for Protective Order related to the other parent’s abuse has been granted and includes use and possession of the residence.
Besides ordering child support, the court may order a child to be included under a parent’s health insurance policy. The court can also award one parent the right to the tax dependency for the child.
Although the court cannot require a parent to provide for their child beyond what is ordered in a child support obligation, certain provisions can be included in agreements between the parties related to the financial support of their child:
a. Order one parent (or both) to pay college education for the child;
b. Order one parent (or both) to provide life insurance for the benefit of the child(ren);
c. Order that health insurance benefits for the child(ren) go beyond the 18th birthday; and/or
d. Order the parties to divide (equally or pro-rata their incomes) expenses for the child for uninsured medical and extracurricular activities.
I do not live in the same state as the other parent, where can I file for child support?
Similar to custody matters, if the parties do not live in the same state, and the child is less than 6 months old, wherever the child has primarily lived during his or her short life will determine which state has jurisdiction. If a child is over 6 months of age, wherever the child has resided for the last 6 months will determine which state has jurisdiction. If a child is over the age of 6 months, but has not resided in one place for 6 consecutive months, unless it is an emergency, a party must wait to file for a child support matter with the Courts. The state that has jurisdiction over the minor child is called the “home state.”
What if there is already a Court Order, but the parties do not live in the same state, where can I file a modification for child support?
Once there is an order in place, unless none of the parties and/or the child resides in the state the court that entered the last child support order has continued jurisdiction over the child. However, even if the parent and/or child still resides in the state that entered the last order, it is possible for another state to obtain jurisdiction over the child. Generally this occurs if the new state is a more convenient state for the parties and/or witnesses are called to testify. If you believe this may be the case, you may request (or the Courts can on their own initiative) that the home state and the “new state” courts communicate with each other to determine which state is the appropriate state to have jurisdiction at that juncture.
If you are trying to modify (or enforce) a prior Order that set forth the current child support obligation from another state, you must first enroll the Order in the state where you are seeking modification (or enforcement).