Common Questions on Child Support
How is child support determined?
Maryland has adopted child support guidelines. The guidelines are computed using each parent’s “actual income,” adjusted for
- preexisting child support actually paid,
- health insurance premiums (if child included),
alimony (deducted from payor and added to payee). The outcome is affected
by certain expenses which are divided proportionately based on the parties’ incomes:
- work-related child care,
- extraordinary medical expenses, and
- additional expenses (which may include: special or private school, transportation between parents’ homes).
What counts as income for computing child support?
“Actual income,” which is what counts for computing child support, means income from any source. “Actual income” includes:
- Dividend income;
- Pension income;
- Interest income;
- Trust income;
- Annuity income;
- Social Security benefits;
- Workers’ compensation benefits;
- Unemployment insurance benefits;
- Disability insurance benefits; and
- Alimony or maintenance received.
“Actual income” is not limited to these categories. Read more FAQs about expense reimbursements or in-kind payments, self-employment income, overtime, and other categories.
What about company-paid cars, business expense accounts, and other business expenses?
Expense reimbursements or in-kind payments received by a parent in the course of employment, self-employment, or operation of a business to the extent the reimbursements or payments reduce the parent’s personal living expenses are included in “actual income.”
How is income from self-employment or a small business figured?
For income from self-employment, rent, royalties, proprietorship of a business, or joint ownership of a partnership or closely held corporation, “actual income” means gross receipts minus ordinary and necessary expenses required to produce income.
Are there any other kinds of income which can be included?
Based on the circumstances of the case, the court may consider the following items as actual income:
- Severance pay;
- Capital gains;
- Gifts; or
For example, in one case where a parent had received regular subsidies from his mother for a long period of time, these subsidies were included in his “actual income.” However, in another case, where a mother’s live-in boyfriend paid toward bills for rent, electricity, cable, telephone service, and trash removal, the payments were not included in her “actual income.”
Does overtime income count?
Money earned by working overtime as a regular part of a parent’s employment constitutes “actual income” for purposes of determining child support payments, but this additional income cannot be speculative or uncertain.
How are child care expenses determined?
Child care expenses are determined based on actual family experience, unless the court finds that the actual family experience is not in the child’s best interest. If there is no actual family experience, or the court finds that the actual family experience is not in the child’s best interest, then child care expenses are set at the lesser of what it would cost to provide quality care from a licensed source, or the actual cost of care chosen by the custodial parent.
Is use of the guidelines required?
Child support guidelines do not apply when the parents have a monthly combined adjusted income in excess of $515,000. However, the court will look to an extrapolation of the Child Support Guidelines as a starting point for parties whose combined income is greater than $15,000 per month. The result obtained by applying the guidelines is presumed to be correct. Departure from results obtained using the child support guidelines is permitted only when application of the guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate.
Does the amount of time a child spends with each parent affect child support?
Yes. If a child spends more than 35% of overnights (128 overnights per year) with each parent, special guidelines are used to compute child support.
Can a parent avoid owing child support by taking a lower paying job or choosing an alternative lifestyle?
A parent who chooses a life of poverty – for example, by taking a lower paying job – and makes a deliberate choice not to alter that status is “voluntarily impoverished.” Whether the parent decides to reduce his or her income in order to avoid paying child support or the parent chooses a frugal lifestyle for another reason doesn’t affect that parent’s obligation to the child. A parent must support his or her child if the parent has, or reasonably could obtain, the means to do so. The law requires a parent who is able to do so to alter his or her chosen lifestyle if necessary to enable the parent to meet his or her support obligation.
What if the parties' combined income exceeds $15,000?
Child support guidelines do not apply when the parents have a monthly combined adjusted income in excess of $15,000. In this situation, factors which should be considered when setting child support include the financial circumstances of the parties, their station in life, their age and physical condition, and expenses in educating the children.
Is child support affected by whether the child was born in or out of wedlock?
A child born out of wedlock is entitled to the same level of support as would be afforded to a child who is the product of a marriage.
Can child support be computed online?
The Maryland Department of Human Resources provides an online child support worksheet at www.dhr.state.md.us/csea/worksheet.htm. However, this worksheet is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney who can help apply to a particular case the legal definitions of sole custody or shared custody, actual income, adjusted actual income, work-related child care expenses, extra-ordinary medical expenses, and other terms used in computing child support.
Our team of experienced attorneys are available to discuss and help with your legal needs. Contact us online or call 301-888-6384 to arrange a consultation with one of our Rockville or Frederick divorce lawyers.
Dorothy R. Fait & Marjorie G. DiLima are Published Authors of Divorce In Maryland: The Legal Process, Your Rights, and What to Expect (2017)
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