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Is It Possible To Deviate From The Child Support Guidelines In Maryland?


Maryland family law requires unmarried and divorced parents to pay an appropriate amount of child support. To simplify this process, the Maryland General Assembly created a formula C officially referred to as the child support guidelines C to divide support obligations across both parents. While these guidelines are typically mandatory, there are circumstances that allow the Maryland courts to deviate and avoid an unjust or inappropriate result.

How Do the Guidelines Calculate Child Support Obligations?

Maryland Code of Family Law Section 12-204 creates the formula for calculating child support obligations under the guidelines. This section requires each parent must pay a share of child support in proportion to their actual adjusted income. Effectively, the child support guidelines combine the incomes from both parents and require each parent to pay a proportionate amount.

Under Maryland family law, the term actual income refers to income from any source, including but not limited to salary, wages, pensions, and various benefits. Whereas, adjusted actual income subtracts child support and alimony payments from actual income.

On a related note, if either parent requests alimony, the Maryland courts must determine that issue before calculating child support obligations. If the state courts decide to award alimony, that amount is added to the receiver’s actual income and subtracted from the payer’s actual income.

Are the Child Support Guidelines Mandatory?

Maryland Code of Family Law Section 12-202 supplies several important considerations for the use of the child support guidelines. Under this section, there is a rebuttable presumption that use of the child support guidelines are correct, just, and appropriate. Consequently, the Maryland courts are required to use the child support guidelines in most temporary or final child support proceedings.

That being said, the Maryland courts may consider evidence that use of the child support guidelines would lead to an unjust or inappropriate outcome. In these situations, the Maryland courts may consider any:

  • Separation or property division agreement or court order to those ends, including any terms dictating payment of marital debts or mortgages;
  • Payment of education costs for university or college;
  • Agreement or court order governing use and possession of the family home;
  • Direct payments for the support or benefit of children, as required by court order or agreement;
  • Expenses related to the support of other children in the household; and
  • Other financial terms required by an existing separation or property division agreement or court order to those ends.

What Happens if the Guidelines Are Unjust or Inappropriate?

Section 12-202 also explains what happens if the Maryland courts determine that use of the child support guidelines would lead to an unjust or inappropriate result. In these cases, the Maryland courts must make a written or specific finding on the record and specify the reasons that justify a departure from the guidelines.

More specifically, Section 12-202 requires the Maryland courts to provide specific information, including the:

  • Breakdown of child support obligations under the guidelines;
  • Difference between the court’s order and the guidelines;
  • Reasons why the court’s order serves the best interests of the child involved; and
  • Estimated value of property conveyed, if the court conveys property instead of a portion of the child support owed under the guidelines.

Contact an Attorney Today 

If you need legal assistance with child support obligations under Maryland law, a Bel Air child support attorney can help. Reach out to Schlaich & Thompson, Chartered for a consultation on your case.

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