Maryland Child Support

Maryland child support exists, according to the Maryland Department of Human Resources, to raise the standard of living for children by ensuring they receive financial support from both parents. As such, there are state programs throughout Maryland that help custodial parents and other guardians of minors under 18 to take action both to obtain a child support order and to enforce an existing order. Most child support orders are issued during the Maryland divorce process. Child support orders can also be obtained where parents are unmarried.

Calculating Child Support in Maryland

Maryland has an income share model in place to determine child support. To determine the required amount of support, first the combined income of both parents is calculated. Then, from this combined total, any existing alimony or child support payments are subtracted if one or both parents has to pay support for previous spouses or other children. 

A combined Income to Child Support Schedule is then used to determine the total amount of basic support a child is entitled to. This Child Support Schedule is a table with different combined income amounts along one side and different numbers of children along the other. Courts will look at the parent's income and then the number of kids they have and find the total amount of money that should be spent each month for basic care (the basic support amount.) Child care expenses, health insurance expense and extraordinary medical expenses are also added up to determine how much support the child or children requires each month.

After the total amount of basic and other support is added up, each parent becomes responsible for a percentage of that total equal to the percent they contribute towards the combined income. A father who contributes 20 percent to the family income, for example, would be responsible for 20 percent of the total combined support amount due.

Finally, because it makes sense that a parent will spend money on a child when the child is living with him/her, subtractions from the amount of support due are made if custody of the child is shared. The reduction is made based on the percentage of time the child spends with the paying parent.

Enforcing Child Support in Maryland

The Maryland Child Support Enforcement Administration can help parents to ensure they obtain the child support deserved. Under Maryland law, all new child support orders mandate that payments are made through wage attachment. This means that payments are made directly from the employer of the paying parent before he or she receives a paycheck.

In the event that payment is not made, the Child Support Enforcement Administration has the authority to help parents in Maryland collect unpaid child support once the paying parent is $500 behind on payments (in arrears.) A number of child support enforcement methods are used to collect delinquent payments, including seizing tax returns or suspending the driver's license of a non-paying individual.

How to Get Child Support in Maryland

Parents who wish to obtain their first child support order can visit their local Child Support Enforcement Agency. The appropriate local office can be found using the list on the Department of Human Resource's website. Alternatively, parents can start the process by obtaining Form 980 and 980A online from the Department of Human Resources.

Unless the parent seeking a child support order is receiving cash or medical assistance from the state, he or she will need to pay a $25 fee at the time of filing an application for support. This is true whether he submits an application obtained from the Internet or whether he gets help applying from someone at the support enforcement agency.

Once the support application is filed, paternity may need to be established. A father can admit paternity and his obligations to the child by having his name placed on the birth certificate and signing an Affidavit of Parentage. If the father has not signed his affidavit or his name is not on the birth certificate, paternity will need to be proven before support order is ordered. The child support enforcement agency can ask the court to order a paternity test, and/or to issue an order for the payment of genetic testing.

After establishing paternity and otherwise determining a right to support, the local child support office will ask the court to order child support. It is important to note, however, that the support office is not acting as an attorney on behalf of either parent. They are simply asking the court to get the child the support he or she deserves. The court will review the information and order the appropriate amount of support as determined by Maryland's rules for calculating child support.

Changing a Child Support Order

Either parent has the right to request a review of support obligations and a possible modification of child support every three years or in the event that there is a material and ongoing change in circumstances.

Requests to change a support agreement should be sent to the case specialist assigned to the case, who will review the provided information. If the specialist believes that the Child Support Enforcement Agency's guidelines for a change are met, the Agency can file a motion with the court to modify the agreement.  Parents can also file a motion with the court directly.

When the Maryland Child support enforcement agency moves for a change in support, they do not act as an attorney for either parent and they do not provide legal advice. Those who have complicated cases or who wish to protect their legal rights may wish to employ an independent family law attorney.