The General Assembly is considering a major overhaul of Maryland’s child support laws. If the legislation currently pending in a number of bills is successful, it may drastically affect thousands of people who currently depend on child support and thousands more in the future whenever parents in the state divorce.
The new bills were recommended after about 30 members of a focus group spent about eighteen months rethinking the way that child support is handled in the state. The Department of Human Services group was comprised of a combination of family law attorneys, child advocates and public stakeholders.
One of the bills before the General Assembly would revamp the formula currently used that determines how much a parent needs to pay in support. The new model is designed to more accurately reflect the real cost of raising a child.
Another bill is designed to remove the provision that allows child support to be drastically reduced once a child has spent 128 nights at a paying parent’s home. Currently, that provision creates situations in which parents argue for access to the children not based on what is best for the child but based on what is best for their wallets.
There’s also a bill that would make it possible for the court to consider how many different child support orders a parent has with different partners so that the children receive more equal shares. Right now, the oldest children tend to have the highest support order — which unfairly disadvantages children born later.
Remaking the current guidelines definitely seems to be appropriate. The current support guidelines were based on economic data obtained way back in 2008 — and things have changed significantly since then. The new system is designed to be fairer to everyone, with genuine consideration given toward the minimal needs of a paying parent and a stronger focus on the needs of the children.
Whatever happens with these new bills, one thing remains true: It’s important to have experienced assistance when you are negotiating a child custody agreement — and child support is an integral part of the equation.