Do All Child Support Awards in Maryland Stick to the Guidelines?Every family and household has different needs. It could be due to social status and income level that prompted a certain way of life, or it could be based on the necessity of a special needs child. Whatever the reason, often courts choose not to punish children for their parents’ decisions when it comes to divorce.

At the most basic level, the court takes into account the income of each parent when calculating child support payments. However, the final sum is based on the needs of the child in question. This means that there may be very legitimate reasoning that can prompt a deviation from the standard child support guidelines if that’s what it takes to properly meet the needs of your child.

How is child support typically calculated?

Both parents have an obligation to financially support their child. Maryland uses the income shares model to calculate your proportional contributions. The Maryland child support guidelines designate a set amount based on income brackets and each parent’s income is plugged into a program that determines your fair share.

Other basic factors are input that can affect the final figure you’ll each be responsible for, including:

  • Number of children to be supported
  • Health insurance premiums for the child
  • Any child support being paid for children from another relationship
  • Alimony being paid out
  • Alimony received
  • Childcare costs
  • General education and transportation expenses
  • Extraordinary medical expenses, which can include any reasonable uncovered medical expense
  • Number of nights the child spends with each parent during the year

Each parent needs to submit a financial statement setting out their monthly income and sources, and expenses. This allows a judge to see whether your budget is reasonably balanced against your income or whether you may have unaccounted for income sources allowing you to meet your financial obligations.

For example, if your financial statement shows you bring in $4,000 per month but your expenses total $6,000 per month, you’re likely to be asked to explain the discrepancy. Child support is intended to be fair and judges want to be sure they’re basing the award off of accurate financial data.

When child support guidelines become moot

Under certain situations, judges may not be required to follow the guidelines. One of those instances is when each parent’s income exceeds $15,000 per month. In high income households, parents can argue that a child’s needs are very different than the needs of children in average income households and therefore require child support significantly different than the guidelines amount.

While you’re not stuck with the statutory guidelines amount, high earning couples with children who have the financial resources to provide a different lifestyle may not have to provide an equivalent lifestyle based on one party’s’ preference for the children once their divorce becomes final. It largely depends upon how reasonable the extraordinary expenses are.

In the case of Rich v Rich, the father was earning at least $9 million per year and paying $9,337 per month in child support. The mother requested an increase upon providing evidence of the expenses needed to raise four children. The court increased her support to $15,792. The mother appealed the decision based on the fact that father had the ability to pay more, however the court was not obligated to require the father provide the same lifestyle the children enjoy while visiting him.

In the case of Brind’Amour v Brind’Amour, the father was a professional hockey player who agreed to pay $15,000 per month in child support. The mother requested a review of the child support amount based on certain expenditures. The judge found those expenses to be exorbitant and reduced the child support award to $9,147 per month.

The increase the mother wanted was for:

  • $1,300 a month for a nanny
  • A car for the nanny
  • $1,130 per month for each child for entertainment

Expenses that may be seen as reasonable and result in a child support increase include:

  • Private school tuition
  • Tutoring sessions
  • Equipment and fees for extracurricular activities
  • Lessons for activities
  • Specialized athletic training
  • Travel expenses related to education or special activities

Adult children with special needs

There is another category of need that can result in an increase in child support. Children with special needs who would otherwise be hindered in reaching their maximum potential in life, or could even decline without the care they need.

A child who has a lifelong disability that affects speech, mobility or fine motor skills is likely to need expensive specialized care. A judge is much more likely to award an upward deviation from the child support guidelines when dealing with these extraordinary costs for health care, special education, or even round the clock nursing care for the most severe cases.

Whether you are divorcing or you simply share your child with his or her other parent, you will both be financially responsible for maintaining your child’s needs for an extended period of time. The amount you could be required to pay for child support can differ vastly based on each parent’s individual financial situation coupled with what is determined as reasonably necessary to provide for your child.

Whether you’re the custodial parent who believes you require more financial assistance than the standard guidelines provides, or you are the non-custodial parent facing a potential child support increase, seeking trusted advice is your best option to protect your legal position. To discuss detailed representation for your child support matter, schedule a consultation with one of our Rockville child support attorneys at McCabe Russell, P.A. by calling 443-917-3347, or feel free to reach out to us through our contact form. We also maintain offices in Fulton, Columbia, and Bethesda.