What You Really Need to Know about Child Support in Maryland

by Anne Grover
December 13th, 2013


John and Kate are recently divorced and they live in Maryland.  They had three wonderful children during their marriage.  Now the questions arise: should child support be paid, and if so, how much? The goal in calculating child support is to ensure that any children are impacted as little as possible by a shift from one household to two. Child support in Maryland is based on an “Income Shares” model.  This means that a Court will look at the combined incomes of the parents, here John and Kate, and allocate any support to be paid out of that combined “family pot.” For child support purposes, a parent’s “income” is defined by statute.  Md. Code Ann., Fam. Law Section 12-201(b) defines actual income as:

  1. "Actual income" means income from any source.
  2. For income from self-employment, rent, royalties, proprietorship of a business, or joint ownership of a partnership or closely held corporation, "actual income" means gross receipts minus ordinary and necessary expenses required to produce income.
  3. "Actual income" includes: (i)  salaries; (ii)  wages; (iii)  commissions; (iv)  bonuses; (v)  dividend income; (vi)  pension income; (vii)  interest income; (viii)  trust income; (ix)  annuity income; (x)  Social Security benefits; (xi)  workers' compensation benefits; (xii)  unemployment insurance benefits; (xiii)  disability insurance benefits; (xiv)  for the obligor, any third parent payment paid to or for a minor child as a result of the obligor's disability, retirement, or other compensable claim; (xv)  alimony or maintenance received; and (xvi)  expense reimbursements or in-kind payments received by a parent in the course of employment, self-employment, or operation of a business to the extent the reimbursements or payments reduce the parent's personal living expenses.
  4. Based on the circumstances of the case, the court may consider the following items as actual income: (i)  severance pay; (ii)  capital gains; (iii)  gifts; or (iv)  prizes.
  5. "Actual income" does not include benefits received from means-tested public assistance programs, including temporary cash assistance, Supplemental Security Income, food stamps, and transitional emergency, medical, and housing assistance.

Md. Code Ann., Fam. Law Section 12-201(b). Despite being set forth by statute, there are arguments to be made in determining a parent’s income, specifically for a determination of income from self-employment and any “discretionary” items listed in subsection (4). Of note, “gifts” can include expenses paid and support given to a parent by his or her parents, relatives and/or friends.  If payment for an expense (direct) or transfer of money to a parent is consistent, dependable and there is no real expectation of repayment, the Court may include those amounts as “income” of a parent in determining child support. If one parent or the other is not working, the Court may still be able to attribute income to that parent.  This can occur if the Court determines that a parent is voluntarily impoverished, it may determine the parent’s potential income.  “Voluntary impoverishment” can be found when a parent makes “the free and conscious choice, not compelled by factors beyond his or her control, to render himself or herself without adequate resources.”  Goldberger v. Goldberger, 96 Md. App. 313, 327, 624 A.2d 1328 (1992). Once the Court determines both parties’ respective incomes, there are two methods by which the Court may set child support: (a) by using the Maryland Child Support Guidelines, or (b) by engaging in a “needs-based” analysis. If the combined monthly incomes of the parents is $15,000 or less, the Court presumes that the Maryland Child Support Guidelines are correct and will set an appropriate amount of support.  A presumption, however, does not preclude either parent from arguing that an application of the Maryland Child Support Guidelines would be inappropriate. What goes into the Maryland Child Support Guidelines?

  1. The parties’ respective gross monthly incomes (including any alimony award);
  2. Any health insurance paid on behalf of the children; and
  3. The allocation of time the children are with each parent.

What else can go into the Maryland Child Support Guidelines?

  1. Other child support awards or alimony being paid by a parent;
  2. Work-related childcare costs;
  3. Extraordinary medical expenses;
  4. Cash medical support; and
  5. Any “other” additional expense (this can include such things as private school tuition and costs).

The Maryland Department of Human Resources has an online “calculator” which is available to anyone: http://www.dhr.state.md.us/CSOCGuide/App/disclaimer.do. If the parents’ combined monthly income is more than $15,000, the appropriate amount of child support is within the Court’s discretion.  In such situations, the Court may use an extrapolation, or extension, of the Maryland Child Support Guidelines or may engage in a “needs-based” analysis. A “needs-based” analysis looks at the children’s actual monthly needs to determine an appropriate amount of support.  This can include anything from housing, food and clothing, to private school, tutoring, and horse-back riding lessons.  It is important to remember that a child’s needs may vary drastically from case to case, depending upon the standard of living the family enjoyed prior to separation.      

Clients facing thorny family law matters turn to Anne Grover for compassionate and aggressive representation in a wide variety of cases, including separation and divorce, child custody disputes, contempt and enforcement proceedings, drafting and negotiating prenuptial agreements, and obtaining protective orders. But no matter how busy her day, the core of Anne’s practice is talking to her clients, listening to their concerns and desired outcomes, and making sure they understand every step of the process as she helps them navigate the legal system.

Contact Anne Grover

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.


The JGL Law Blog is made available by the Firm and/or the law firm publisher for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law. The JGL Law Blog is not designed to and does not provide specific legal advice. Use of, or comments on, this Blog does not create an Attorney Client Relationship with the Firm or any of the authors of the Blog Posts.

This blog is for general informational purposes only. Joseph, Greenwald & Laake, PA is a law firm and some of the information on the blog relates to legal topics. Joseph, Greenwald & Laake, PA does not offer or dispense legal advice through this blog or by e-mails directed to or from this site. By using the blog, the reader agrees that the information on this blog does not constitute legal or other professional advice and no attorney-client or other relationship is created between the reader and Joseph, Greenwald & Laake, PA or its attorneys. The blog is not a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a qualified attorney licensed in your state. The information on the blog may be changed without notice and is not guaranteed to be complete, correct or up-to-date. While the blog is revised on a regular basis, it may not reflect the most current legal developments. The opinions expressed at or through the blog are the opinions of the individual author and may not reflect the opinions of the firm or any individual attorney. The JGL Law Blog should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

To ensure compliance with requirements imposed by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service in Circular 230, we inform you that any tax advice contained on this site (including any links provided) is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties under the U.S. Internal Revenue Code or (ii) promoting, marketing, or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed in this communication.