By Dana McKee
In the State of Maryland, each parent has an obligation to financially support their minor child. The formula applied by the Maryland courts to calculate child support, known as the Child Support Guidelines, is set to change on October 1, 2020. The Guidelines are used to estimate the percentage of income parents would spend on their minor child if they were living together. The Guidelines consider several factors in determining the amount of child support owed by each parent, including, but not limited to:
- Each parent’s respective income;
- The number of nights the minor child sleeps at each parent’s house;
- The cost of health insurance coverage for the minor child;
- Extraordinary medical expenses, such as expenses not covered by insurance; and
- The cost of work-related childcare incurred by each parent.
How is child support calculated under the existing Maryland law?
Under the terms of the existing Maryland law, the “shared physical custody” Guidelines are applied when the non-custodial parent has the minor child overnight for more than 128 overnights each year. The “sole physical custody” Guidelines are applied when the non-custodial parent has the minor child overnight for 127 or less overnights per year. Consequently, whether the child spends more or less than 128 overnights with a parent each year can mean the difference of hundreds of dollars in child support.
The current law often creates conflict between parents when negotiating a physical custody schedule for their minor child. Our family law attorneys have witnessed firsthand, parents fighting over 1 additional overnight in a proposed custody schedule because of the impact that overnight has on the amount of child support they receive or owe. The current law sometimes encourages parents to overlook which schedule is in the best interests of their child.
How is child support calculated under the new Maryland law?
In response to this problem, the Maryland legislature recently passed a bill amending the Guidelines to allow for a more gradual decrease in the amount of child support owed for each additional overnight. The purpose behind the amendment is to turn the parents’ focus on the best interests of the minor child and away from receiving a better child support award. The new law modifies the definition of “shared physical custody” to each parent having the minor child for more than 92 overnights each year. The bill establishes a complex adjustment to the Child Support Guidelines, applicable to parents who have their child for more than 92 overnights but less than 110 overnights each year, to provide a gradual decrease in child support for each additional overnight.
How does this play out in real life?
Because the costs of caring for a child for 127 overnights is in reality quite similar to the costs of caring for a child for 129 overnights, this change more accurately captures the expenses a parent pays for his or her child. Imagine, for example, the following scenario: Parent A and Parent B agree to a physical custody schedule whereby Parent A has the minor child for 260 overnights each year and Parent B has the minor child for 105 overnights each year. Parent A earns an annual income of $50,000. Parent B earns an annual income of $100,000. Under the current law, the “sole physical custody” Guidelines are applied, and Parent B owes $1,079 per month in child support to Parent A. However, under the new law, the “shared physical custody” Guidelines are applied, and Parent B owes $968 per month in child support to Parent A. Therefore, under the new law, Parent B owes $1,332 less each year in child support.
Does the new Maryland law affect my child support case?
The bill, enacted into law during the 2020 Maryland General Assembly Session, will apply to all child support matters determined on or after October 1, 2020. The change does not automatically alter existing child support orders or agreements but will be applied towards future child support modifications of existing orders.
If you have experienced a material change in circumstance that would allow you to amend a current child support order or if you need to file a new child support case, Dana W. McKee at Brown, Goldstein & Levy is here to help. Our family law attorney has extensive experience to help ensure that the appropriate child support amount is received or paid.