Child support is the amount one parent pays to another to cover a portion of the costs of taking care of the child. Terms of child support are determined by the court during divorce proceedings based on the amount of time the child will be spending with each of their parents. The parent having primary caregiving responsibility (custodial parent) is paid by the non-custodial parent in an amount expected to fairly cover expenses.
In the past, child support negotiations were subject to the vagaries of judicial preference or bias. This led to adoption of a Federal law called the Child Support Enforcement Act. The aim of the law is to normalize the calculation of support; and it directs each state to develop child support guidelines. States differ in the specifics of the guidelines. States also vary in the amount of discretion afforded to judges in making support payment decisions.
Support Payment Guideline Considerations
Most child support guidelines identify factors for the court to consider when it determines support payments. These usually include:
- Costs including housing, food, health insurance, education, and any special needs of the child
- Non-custodial parent’s ability to pay
- Custodial parent’s income
- Whether custody is shared or not
Orders for child support payments establish a monthly payment of a set amount. This allows for ease of administration – particularly if garnishment of wages is necessary to enforce payments. However, the added expense of an extended summer vacation may not be adequately reflected in the support payments.
Visitation Schedules in Maryland
In Maryland there is no required standard visitation schedule. Some counties have established guidelines on child access (visitation). Montgomery County provides a sample schedule setting out a non-custodial parent visiting with the child every other weekend from 7:00 pm Friday to 7:00 pm Sunday, one evening per week, and includes provisions for holidays and vacation times.
If parents know in advance about regular planned summer vacations, then the initial visitation schedule and support calculation can take that into account. In this case, costs of vacations will be folded into the monthly support payments. If an extended vacation is out of the ordinary and/or unanticipated at the time of the original decision on child support payments, then it is possible to make an adjustment.
If parents are able to negotiate a suspension agreement to cover costs, it is possible to petition the court to obtain a modification of the support decree to reflect the agreement. Failure to officially record the agreement with the courts leaves open the possibility of later motions for enforcement for failure to pay support. Courts will not consider informal agreements not committed to writing when deciding on petitions to adjust support determinations. It may be better to simply acknowledge that support payments are best estimates of fairly sharing childcare costs and that special or unanticipated circumstances might be borne by parents somewhat unevenly.
Over time, situations may change that affect the ability of a custodial parent to care for the child or children or the ability of a non-custodial parent to pay support. If either of these situations arise it may be time to consider petitioning the court for a modification of child support obligations.
Bel Air Child Support Lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC Assist Parents with Child Support Matters
If you believe you may need to modify child support call 443-589-0150 or complete an online form to schedule a free initial consultation with an experienced Bel Air child support lawyer at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC.
We represent clients throughout Maryland, including those in Baltimore, Baltimore County, Bel Air, Columbia, Freeland, Hampton, Westminster, Essex, Monkton, Sparks, Glencoe, Parkton, Phoenix, Pikesville, White Hall, Carroll County, Harford County, and Howard County.