Child Support Changes Coming October 1, 2020 –
Don’t Jump Off the Cliff!

By Kimberly Lauer, Esquire

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Child support guidelines apply to families with a combined gross income (before taxes) of up to $15,000 per month. The guideline then proportionally applies each parent’s obligation based on how many overnights the child spends with each parent and the relative earnings of each parent. Currently (before October 1, 2020), a parent must exercise at least 128 overnights with their child to constitute a “shared custody” calculation. 

This shared custody terminology in child support calculation is different from the physical custody schedule the parties may actually follow. For instance, if Parent One has the children for two nights every week, such as from Saturday afternoon through Monday morning and Parent Two has the children five nights each week from Monday afternoon through Saturday afternoon, that is a shared physical custody schedule. But for the purposes of calculating child support under this scenario, Parent One has the children for 104 nights [2 nights x 52 weeks = 104]. Thus, under the current child support calculation, the guideline would apply a sole custody calculation for Parent Two. 

This change from shared to sole custody application at 128 overnights creates a “cliff” in the calculation of child support under the current guidelines.  If both Parent One and Parent Two each earn $6,000 per month in gross income. Under the old guidelines, Parent One would owe $777 per month in child support. At 128 overnights, that obligation changes to $348 per month. This situation created battles between parents who share time, to shuttle children back and forth over summers and holidays to increase Parent One’s overnights to the magic number – 128.

But this is about to change! Maryland House Bill 269 passed in the 2020 legislative session modifies the number of overnights that will fall within a shared child support calculation. As of October 1, 2020 for newly-filed child support cases, the shared custody calculation will apply to 92 overnights and up. Thus, the “cliff” will transition to a “slope” of gradually increasing the support obligation from 92 overnights to 128 overnights. The same guideline calculation will apply more than 128 overnights.  

Guidelines Comparison Chart* (*Assuming both parents earn $6,000/month) (1) Overnights: Sole - Old Guideline=$777, New Guideline=$777. (2) Overnights: 92 - Old Guideline=$777, New Guideline=$665. (3) Overnights: 104 - Old Guideline=$777, New Guideline=$535. (4) Overnights: 128 - Old Guideline=$348, New Guideline=$348. (5) Overnights: 142 - Old Guideline=$258, New Guideline=$258. (6) Overnights: 156 - Old Guideline=$170, New Guideline=$170. (7) Overnights: 182 - Old Guideline=$4, New Guideline=$4. (Not including health insurance, child care, or additional expenses.)

So returning to our earlier scenario where Parent One has 104 overnights with their child, the new child support guidelines calculation would be $535 per month, a significant difference. This creation of a gradual increase of child support from 92 to 128 encourages parents to work out a schedule that fits best for their circumstances and the best schedule for the child.