July 7th, 2022
3 Significant Changes to Maryland Child Support Law
As of July 1, 2022, there are three significant changes to Maryland child support law that parents paying or receiving child support should be aware of as well as parents contemplating divorce or separation from a co-parent.
Child Support Guidelines Have Changed Meaning Increased Child Support for Many Parents
The legislature recently changed the Maryland Child Support Guidelines such that beginning July 1, 2022, child support increases for parents whose combined adjusted actual income is more than $19,200/year.
In addition, the Child Support Guidelines used to only be presumptively correct, meaning the use of a statutory formula resulting in a child support award amount that the court will put into the child support order unless a party convinces the court that another amount is more appropriate, for parents with a combined adjusted actual income of up to $180,000 per year. However, the legislature has expanded the guidelines, such that they are now presumptively correct for parents with a combined adjusted actual income of up to $360,000 per year. The increased income threshold for the Child Support Guidelines should result in more predictable child support outcomes for parents falling within that income range. For parents whose combined adjusted actual income is more than $360,000, child support calculations will be still within the discretion of the court.
The Statute Now Defines Voluntary Impoverishment
Prior to the change in law, the court looked to the broad body of caselaw that defined “voluntary impoverishment” when determining whether to impute income to a parent that chose to work a job paying less than their earning potential. However, now “voluntary impoverishment” is defined under the child support statute. Specifically, a parent will be considered “voluntarily impoverished” if they “made the free and conscious choice, not compelled by factors beyond the parent’s control, to render the parent without adequate resources.” MD FAMILY §12–201(q).
If the court finds that a parent is voluntarily impoverished, they will consider a number of factors to determine the amount of potential income that should be imputed to the parent. For example, the parent’s:
- Physical and behavioral condition;
- Educational attainment;
- Special training or skills;
- Occupational qualifications and job skills;
- Employment and earnings history;
- Record of efforts to obtain and retain employment; and
- Criminal record and other employment barriers.
In addition, when determining potential income, the court will consider employment opportunities in the community where the parent lives, including:
- The status of the job market;
- Prevailing earnings levels; and
- The availability of employers willing to hire the parent.
The Court May Decline to Order Child Support
The statute now specifically provides the court with the authority to decline to order child support under certain circumstances. Specifically, if the parent who would be obligated to pay child support lives with the minor child and is contributing to the support of the child.
Or, the court may not order child support if the parent who would be obligated to pay support meets the following criteria:
- Is unemployed;
- Has no financial resources from which to pay child support;
- Is incarcerated and is expected to remain incarcerated for the remainder of the time that the parent would have a legal duty to support the child;
- Is institutionalized in a psychiatric care facility and is expected to remain institutionalized for the remainder of the time that the parent would have a legal duty to support the child;
- Is totally and permanently disabled, is unable to obtain or maintain employment, and has no income other than Supplemental Security Income or Social Security disability insurance benefits; or
- Is unable to obtain or maintain employment in the foreseeable future due to compliance with criminal detainment, hospitalization, or a rehabilitation treatment plan.