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Overview of Maryland Approach to Child Support Obligations


In the State of Maryland, unmarried or divorced parents of minor children must each handle their fair share of child support obligations. Stated otherwise, the parents must divide the burden of caring for their minor children amongst themselves. However, the child support obligation changes based on various factors, such as income level or custody status.

What Qualifies as Income for Child Support?

Under Maryland Code of Family Law Section 12-201, actual income refers to income derived from any source. More specifically, actual income can include:

  • Bonuses, commissions, salaries, and wages;
  • Annuities, dividends, interests, pensions, and trusts;
  • Profit gained from self-employment, sole business ownership, joint business ownership of a partnership or closely held corporation, rent, or royalties;
  • Benefits from Social Security, workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance, and disability insurance;
  • Certain payments and reimbursements related to the minor child in question
  • Alimony, maintenance, or other support received; and
  • In certain cases, capital gains, gifts, prizes, and severance pay.

On the other hand, Section 12-201 excludes certain sources from the definition of income. For example, actual income does not include:

  • Supplemental Security Income;
  • Temporary cash assistance;
  • Food stamps; or
  • Transitional emergency, medical, or housing assistance.

That being said, the calculation of a parent’s child support obligation in Maryland relies on adjusted actual income, not actual income. Under Section 12-201, the term adjusted actual income refers to actual income minus any payments toward:

  • Existing and reasonable child support obligations; and
  • Alimony, maintenance, or spousal support, outside of certain exceptions.

How is a Parent’s Child Support Obligation Calculated?

Under Maryland Code of Family Law Section 12-204, there are specific guidelines for calculating child support obligations. These guidelines divide financial responsibility for a child based on the parent’s combined adjusted actual incomes and the number of children involved. Then each parent must pay in proportion to their adjusted actual income, with considerations involved for expenses related to child care, health insurance, and extraordinary medical expenses.

In cases where the parents share custody of the minor child — referred to legally as shared physical custody — there is a slightly different calculation. In these situations, the calculation involves:

  • Combining the adjusted actual incomes and dividing the relative share of child support obligations; and
  • Multiplying the child support obligation by the percentage of time the child spends with that parent.

If one parent requests an award of alimony or similar support from the other parent, the Maryland courts must decide that issue first. That is because an award of alimony or support is considered part of actual income. Furthermore, payment of alimony or support is subtracted in the calculation of adjusted actual income.

Do You Need Legal Help?

If you need legal assistance with child support obligations under Maryland law, it can be tremendously valuable to reach out to a skillful Bel Air family law attorney. The attorneys at Schlaich & Thompson, Chartered have more than 60 years of combined legal experience in family and criminal law, including child support obligations. If you need legal help, contact us today for an initial consultation.





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