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Maryland’s Child Support Guidelines

With nearly 500,000 Maryland children living in single-family households – and these households having more than twice the poverty rate of all other Maryland children – obtaining child support from a non-custodial parent is very important, if not a necessity.

The problem until recently, however, was that Maryland’s child support guidelines had remained the same since 1988. This means that the guideline amount upon which the custodial parent’s award is based has not been updated to reflect changes in the economy, prices or cost of living in over 20 years. This put custodial parents and their children at a huge disadvantage, as the costs associated with raising a child increased – some things doubling or even tripling in cost between 1988 and 2010 – while the guidelines remained the same.

Maryland’s Department of Human Resources has, however, has proposed a way to resolve this inequity by changing the child support guidelines. The new figures use 2008 economic data to determine how much it costs to raise a child in Maryland. This data includes prices, federal, state, and local income tax rates, poverty guidelines, state and federal minimum wage levels, housing costs, medical expenses and the costs of family expenditures.

Revising the guidelines to reflect the current economy allows for children in Maryland – whether their parents are divorced, separated, or never married – to receive a fair and equitable level of the financial resources of both of their parents, as the new guidelines better reflect the costs of raising a child in the present time.

The revised guidelines also affect the individuals responsible for paying child support. The new guidelines incorporate current economic data, and keep the minimum order between $20 and $140 per month, while expanding this minimum payment to include those obligors whose income falls just below the new minimum wage, or $1,256-per-month gross. This will provide a financial benefit to those non-custodial parents who fall at the lower end of the wage-earning spectrum.

The new guidelines also raise the current combined monthly income of both parents from $10,000 to $30,000, which will provide equal determination of child support amounts for parents at higher income levels.

Non-custodial parents may also benefit, as the new guidelines update the “self-support reserve,” ensuring that the obligor is left with enough of his income at the end of the month to maintain a minimum standard of living so his earning capacity is not negatively affected, enabling him to continue providing for himself while providing for his child.