Maryland Child Custody and Support Guidelines:
A court may award custody of a minor child to either parent or joint custody to both parents, with neither parent being resumed to have any right to custody that is superior to the right of the other parent. If the court has reasonable grounds to believe that a child has been abused or neglected by a parent, and if the court believes that the conduct will continue, the court shall deny custody or visitation rights to that party, except that the court may approve a supervised visitation arrangement that assures the safety and the physiological, psychological, and emotional well-being of the child. A child who is 16 years old or older may file a petition to change custody. [Based on Maryland Code, Family Law, Sections 5-203, 9-101 and 9-103]Child Support :
The level of child support is based on the Income Shares model, meaning the both parent's incomes is combined to determine the amount of support. The basic child support obligation is then divided between the parents in proportion to their adjusted actual incomes. The child support guidelines may be deviated from due to the terms of any existing separation or property settlement agreements, or the presence in the household of either parent of other children to whom that parent owes a duty of support and the expenses for whom that parent is directly contributing. [Based on Maryland Code, Family Law, Sections 12-202 and 12-204]How The Court Determines The Amount Of Child Support:
- Generally, child support payments are for the ordinary expenses of food, shelter, clothing, education and medication needs for the children only. In determining an award of child support, a court will look at all relevant facts upon the following issues:
- The needs of the children. For example, a sickly or developmentally disabled child will often require a higher level of support than a healthy child.
- The age of the children. Infants and younger children often cost less to support than older children.
- The ability of the non-custodial parent to Pay. The court is limited in awarding child support by the ability of a parent to pay based on income from all sources, often including a new spouse's earnings.
- The earning capacity of the custodial parent. Both parents have the duty to support their children, not just the paying parent. Thus, the earnings or earning capacity of the custodial parent which are available to provide support for the children, and perhaps that of their new spouse, will also be considered when determining child support levels.
- The other responsibilities of the parents. The other lawful responsibilities of both parents will also be looked into in determining child support. For example, if the non-custodial parent is paying child support from a previous marriage (a rather common occurrence), the court will take that obligation into consideration. Necessities of life, such as rent and food will also be taken into account by the court. However, the court will not reduce child support payments to make it easier for the parent to pay discretionary obligations. For example, a parent cannot provide for a charity or buy an expensive car at the expense of providing for his or her own children.
To assist the court in determining the proper amount of support, both parties will be required by the court to prepare a financial declaration that is signed under penalty of perjury). Each parent will be required to fully disclose their income (from all sources frequently including money earned by a new spouse or live-in-lover), the nature and extent of their property holdings such as bank accounts, investments and real property and their financial obligations. The court will rely heavily on these documents in making the order and thus it is in the best interests of the children that the declarations be filled out completely and honestly.