For most people who are about to get divorced in Maryland, your child support amount is about to go up.
The change is due to an update to Maryland’s Child Support Guidelines, which are used by the Courts to establish and set child support in most cases in Maryland. Additionally, some related statutes have been updated. All updates go into effect for all cases filed after July 1, 2022.
I’ve outlined below the three main changes that will impact many of my clients
An Increase in the Child Support Guidelines
The child support guidelines have increased in two ways.
- The figure produced by the application of the child support guidelines has increased. Practically speaking, this means that for many, if the same family gets divorced prior to July 1, the amount of child support will be less than if they wait until after that date.
- The threshold application of the guidelines have increased. Currently, the Courts are required to apply the result of the Maryland Child Support Guidelines calculator in all cases in which the combined adjusted actual income of the family is $15,000 per month (or $180,000 per year) or less, with the Court having discretion in cases where a family earns more than $180,000 per year. After July 1, those numbers will double to $30,000 per month (or $360,000 per year). This should provide more prompt and predictable results for families earning between $180,000 and $360,000 per year. For families over the new threshold, the Court will have discretion in determining the level of child support.
Defining Voluntary Impoverishment
The concept of voluntary impoverishment – basically making the choice to work a job paying less than one’s earning potential – has been around a long time but has never been codified in a statute, until now.
Presently there is a plethora of cases defining voluntary impoverishment and guiding courts on when a parent is voluntarily impoverished and how the court may handle a parent who is voluntarily impoverished when determining child support. Come July, voluntary impoverishment will be defined in the family law code, as when a “parent has made the free and conscious choice, not compelled by factors beyond the parent’s control, to render the parent without adequate resources.”
In addition, the new statute provides that if there is an allegation about voluntary impoverishment in dispute, the court must make a finding about whether there the parent in question is voluntary impoverished, and in the event the parent is found to be voluntarily impoverished, the Court is required to consider a list of factors in determining the amount of potential income (if any) to impute to that parent.
Declining to Order Child Support
The new statute will give the court authority to decline to order child support in very specific and limited circumstances. One such circumstance when the court may decline to establish child support is when the child for whom support is sought lives with the parent from who support is sought and that parent is contributing to the child’s expenses.
For cases filed after July 1, 2022, the new child support guidelines will be used to establish initial child support orders, both pendente lite (pending trial) and permanently, as well as to establish the level of child support in cases involving modifications of existing child support orders.
Existing child support orders can be modified based only on a material change of circumstances. Courts have found a material change of circumstances in numerous instances, including but not limited to loss of a job, medical issues, retirement, education issues, changes in the needs of the child, etc. However, the adoption of the new child support guidelines is not, in and of itself, a material change of circumstances for purposes of modification of child support.
Don’t wait – if you have minor children, adult destitute or adult disabled children, you should consult a family law attorney now about how the new guidelines may affect your child support obligation or award.