A divorce does not end a parent's duty to financially support his children. In Maryland, child support is calculated according to a set formula contained in state law and based on the parents' incomes. Because a child's needs take precedence over the interests of the parents, a judge is not necessarily bound by a support calculation and may order a higher payment if he deems it necessary to cover expenses related to the care of the child. There is no statutory maximum limit to the amount of support the court can order.
Overview of Child Support
In calculating child support, Maryland utilizes what is known as an income shares model. This model is based on the rationale that a child should have the same proportion of financial support from each parent after divorce that she received while the parents were married. The baseline dollar amount of support required to meet the child's needs at each income level is set by the state and presented in the form of a guideline.
Establishing the Support Amount
The first step in calculating child support in Maryland is to combine the net incomes of both parents to produce a total household income. This amount corresponds to a total support obligation on a worksheet provided by the state. The parent ordered to pay support is required to pay the portion of the obligation that is in the same proportion of his income to the total household income. For example, if you contribute $6,000 to a combined monthly household net income of $9,000, you would then be responsible for two-thirds of the entire support obligation.
Once the baseline support amount is determined, Maryland courts can increase the support amount in certain cases. Typically this applies if your child has special needs, larger than average medical costs or attends private school. The court may also decrease the amount of an obligation if it can be shown that applying the guidelines is inappropriate or unfair. An example would be if you were already paying support to the child according to the terms of an existing private agreement.
In Maryland, the support guidelines only apply to parents with a household income that does not exceed $15,000 per month. In cases involving larger incomes, the court has wide discretion in fashioning the support obligation. One option is to simply extend the same guideline calculation used to generate support obligations for parents with lower incomes. Another option is to determine what standard of living the child enjoyed while you were married and try to match that standard through the support obligation.
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