2021 will see 5 major changes to the child support guidelines, one of which extends the upper limit of the child support guidelines from $15,000/month combined parents’ incomes to $30,000/month.
There is a rebuttable presumption that the amount of child support resulting from Maryland’s child support guidelines is the correct amount of support. A Court shall use the child support guidelines for the income ranges within the guidelines. A Court may deviate (so, award a different amount of child support) if guidelines support would be unjust or inappropriate.
Until September 30, 2021, Maryland’s child support guidelines only presumptively apply to combined incomes of $15,000/month. When incomes are higher than the upper limit, the Court may use its discretion to set the amount of child support, usually either extrapolating the guidelines or calculating support based upon the children’s financial needs and parents’ incomes and financial circumstances.
The 2021 changes apply to cases filed on or after October 1, 2021.
Why did this come about? Because Maryland is legally required to review its child support guidelines every 4 years and to promote uniformity of child support outcomes for upper income families. Efforts in 2009 and 2010, for example, to expand the upper limit of the guidelines were unsuccessful.
What tips should parents and attorneys keep in mind?
- Calculate and compare! Don’t assume that the combination of 2021’s new economic data and expanded guidelines will result in higher child support. In many cases, probably. But not all. Calculate 2020 and 2021 support, compare, and plan from there.
- Anticipate the change. Consider including an automatic adjustment of child support in your settlement agreement based upon 2021 guidelines. Or, negotiate a compromise amount between 2020 and 2021 guidelines.
- Be aware of filing deadlines. The October 1, 2021 changes apply to cases filed on and after October 1, 2021. Not cases filed before. If necessary to file before October 1, 2021, consider requesting a deviation and include that in your Court pleadings or motion.
- Use the 2021 guidelines as a reference point for the Court. If the new guidelines support your position, show the Court the 2021 guidelines as a reference point for the appropriate amount of support.
- Request needs based support. If 2020 guidelines are higher than 2021 guidelines, consider requesting child support based upon the children’s financial needs.
- Consider retroactivity. When weighing filing deadlines, consider that child support and changes to child support can only be awarded dating back to the date the request is filed with the court (Family Law Article §12-104). Rose v. Rose, 236 Md.App. 117 (2018) (FN 1), recognizes that parties’ settlement agreements can require retroactive modification of child support to a date before a request is filed with the Court as well as periodic recalculation of child support. Consider building this into your settlement to avoid a foreseeable request for modification.
- Consider material change if requesting a modification after October 1, 2021. Per Maryland law, changes to the child support guidelines law are not, themselves alone, a material change in circumstance to justify a modification of child support (Maryland Code, Family Law Article §12-202(b)). Other material changes are needed to obtain a modification of child support. Make sure those changes exist and are stated in your Court filings. Or consider acknowledging in a settlement agreement that modification of the child support guidelines is a material change.
For other articles in this series about updates to the child support guidelines law in 2020 and 2021:
- 2020 Updates
- 2021 Updates
Since 2002, Lindsay Parvis has represented clients in Maryland custody, divorce, and marital matters. She negotiates, litigates, and advocates for the best interests of her clients, whether in contested litigation, uncontested settlement, or premarital and other agreements. Her clients are not only spouses and parents, but also children whose interests she is appointed by the court to represent in contested custody litigation. She is a graduate of Mount Holyoke and University of Baltimore School of Law. Lindsay strives to improve Maryland law in the General Assembly, volunteering her time to monitor, advocate, and educate about legislative developments in family law.