Maryland, like many other states, has a statutory formula for determining child support. Anyone can do a search online and access a “child support calculator.” It seems simple.
But, there are many ways in which child support can be complicated (and you may need an attorney to help you determine appropriate child support). Here are three examples:
- What is “income”? “Income” for purposes of determining child support is defined differently than “income” for purposes of taxation by the IRS. Many “deductions” available to reduce income for IRS purposes are not properly deductible for purposes of determining “income” under Maryland Law. Also, income for purposes of determining child support goes beyond simple W2 or 1099 earned income… it also may include gifts, investment income, expenses paid by an employer or other sources of revenue. You may want to seek advice from an attorney, especially if the opposing party (a) is self-employed, (b) has significant unreported income (or takes significant deductions on their tax returns), (c) has income from various sources, or (d) has a lifestyle that seems to out-pace their apparent earnings (for example: someone allegedly earning $35,000 per year driving a Maserati). Sometimes it may be appropriate to assign an income number (called “imputed income”) to a party with no actual income, if that party is capable of earning more and has voluntarily chosen not to.
- Above the Guidelines Cases. The Maryland child support formula only binds the court up to a certain combined income ($180,000). For families with a combined income that exceeds this amount, child support is discretionary and determined based on a variety of factors. Commonly, Courts will simply extrapolate the same statutory formula, but that is not always appropriate. If you (or the opposing party) has high income, you will likely want to consult an attorney to determine the best approach to calculating child support.
- What Child-Related Expenses Go Into the Guidelines? The Maryland child support formula is set-up to allocate certain expenses proportionately between the parties (the cost of health insurance for the children, and work-related childcare, for example). However, it is sometimes appropriate to allocate other expenses, such as private school tuition and other medical expenses for the children. Sometimes this is done by plugging these numbers into the formula – sometimes this allocation occurs by private agreement, outside of the formula. Which way these expenses are allocated/calculated may affect the total amount you pay (or receive) in child support. An attorney can help you determine what approach is most appropriate or most favorable in light of the facts in your case.
In order to protect your rights: it is also important to know what is covered by child support and what isn’t, and how often (and when) child support needs to be updated/adjusted. This is an example of an issue that is far more complex than it often seems on its face, and where expert advice may be necessary.