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Standard Guidelines for Child Support Obligations in Maryland


Parents in Maryland have a duty to care for and protect their children, including payment of child support obligations where applicable. But in cases of divorced or separated parents, it can be difficult to estimate how much each parent should pay to support their common children. To help alleviate this problem, Maryland created standardized guidelines to dictate how much each parent owes in child support obligations.

What are the Child Support Guidelines in Maryland?

Under Maryland Code of Family Law Section 12-202, there are standardized guidelines in place to determine responsibility for paying child support. In almost all cases, the Maryland courts must apply the standardized guidelines to determine the payment obligations for each parent.

When a Maryland court determines payment obligations based on the guidelines, the amount of child support required is deemed to be correct. That being said, either parent may argue that use of the child support guidelines would be unfair or unreasonable. In those situations, the Maryland courts have discretion to determine child support obligations outside of the standardized guidelines.

In terms of applying the child support guidelines, the Maryland courts must first examine the actual income of each parent.

What is the Maryland Definition of Actual Income?

Under Maryland Code of Family Law Section 12-201, the term actual income includes a person’s:

  • Salaries;
  • Wages;
  • Commissions;
  • Bonuses;
  • Dividend income;
  • Pension income;
  • Interest income;
  • Trust income;
  • Annuity income;
  • Social Security benefits;
  • Workers’ compensation benefits;
  • Unemployment insurance benefits;
  • Disability insurance benefits;
  • Alimony or other spousal support; and
  • Certain other third-party payments and reimbursements.

In certain cases, Section 12-201 even authorizes the Maryland courts to consider other sources of compensation as actual income, including:

  • Capital gains;
  • Gifts;
  • Prizes; and
  • Severance pay.

On the other hand, Section 12-201 specifically excludes the following benefits from the definition of actual income:

  • Food stamps;
  • Supplemental Security Income;
  • Temporary cash assistance;
  • Temporary emergency assistance for healthcare or housing; or
  • Similar needs-based public assistance programs.

What is the Maryland Definition of Adjusted Actual Income?

Armed with the actual income for each parent, the Maryland courts then calculate adjusted actual income for both parents. As established in Section 12-201, the adjusted amount is based on actual income less any existing:

  • Child support obligations; and
  • Alimony or other spousal support payments.

How does Maryland Use Income to Calculate Child Support Obligations?

Under Maryland Code of Family Law Section 12-202, any child support obligations are based on the adjusted actual incomes of both parents. The Maryland courts combine both adjusted incomes into a single, combined figure, which represents the base amount due to support the child in question. Then the courts divide the base amount amongst both parents in proportion to actual adjusted income.

Do You Need Legal Help?

If you have legal questions about child support obligations in Maryland, it can be tremendously useful to contact an established family law attorney. Based in Bel Air, Maryland, 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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