2021 will see 5 major changes to the child support guidelines, one of which updates the Maryland child support guidelines using newer economic data. Updates for economic data were last enacted in 2010 (based on 2008 data) and before that in 1989 (based on 1972-1973 data).
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.
What tips should parents and attorneys keep in mind?
- Calculate and compare! Don’t assume that new data means higher support. In most instances it will. But when combined with expansion of the guidelines to higher income levels, in some instances the resulting support is less.
- Anticipate the change. And build the modification into a settlement agreement. Consider the benefits of settlement now with future modification already resolved versus the Court’s inability to decide now a future amount of child support and potential future modification litigation.
- 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.
- 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 stating 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.