Maryland law requires both parents support their minor children, whether the parents are divorced, legally separated, or have never been married at all. There are many ways to support a child. However the focus of this article is on the rights and obligations to provide financial support for minor children pursuant to The Maryland Child Support Guidelines.
As a general matter, Maryland Law obligates the parent without custody of their minor child (noncustodial parent) to provide a monthly payment to the parent with custody (custodial parent) to provide for the custody, care and wellbeing of the child. Parents are not the only individuals entitled child support payments from non-custodial parents. Any custodian, including aunts, uncles, grandparents, or court-appointed guardians, may petition the Circuit Court of Maryland for an order requiring a non-custodial parent to pay support for their child.
Maryland has fairly strict guidelines when calculating the appropriate amount of child support. Parties are permitted to create their own child support agreement, as long as it doesn’t stray too far from the state guidelines.
How is Support Calculated? The formula can be found in Maryland Family Law Article §12–204. In Maryland, Child Support obligations are based upon the combined adjusted actual income of both parents. The income of parents may be adjusted to account for items such as child support paid for other children or alimony being paid or received by either parent. Once combined income is adjusted, Courts further consider other expenses, such as day care expenses, health insurance coverage, medical expenses, educational expenses, and travel expenses.
A child support obligation is further adjusted to account for the number of children that are subject to the order. Parents are obligated to support minor children until the age of 18. If the child is still in high school, child support payments may be extended to age 19. Child support is also terminated if the child is otherwise emancipated.
A custodian seeking an Order for Child Support has two options. An Order may be obtained through the Office of Child Support Enforcement (CSEA) or by filing a Complaint for Child Support directly with the Circuit Court of Maryland.
The CSEA is a valuable resource for: Locating the other parent, legally establishing paternity, obtaining a court order for child support and health insurance, collecting child support payments and enforcing the court order. A child support order may be established through CSEA within 90-180 days. This process could be delayed if the other parent lives out of state, is incarcerated, fails to appear for a court hearing, or if there are problems verifying income. If parents are willing to cooperate with each other, cases are easily registered and can proceed to a hearing or agreement more quickly.
Obtaining legal assistance from a Maryland Family Law attorney is also an option. Family law attorneys can streamline the process, obtain additional information regarding the income of non-custodial parent through the discovery process, present additional information to the court in above guideline cases, present arguments to the court regarding the unique financial needs of a child, private school tuition, extra curricular activities and litigate the matter before the Circuit Court when the opposing party is evading service, is self employed, is hiding income or refusing to pay support.