Child Support and Alimony

When any relationship ends, it is important to understand your financial rights and obligations stemming from that relationship, whether it involves a child or a spouse.

Child Support

In Maryland, a non-custodial parent's child support obligation is determined by statute, sometimes referred to as the Maryland Child Support Guidelines. These guidelines are used in any proceeding to establish or modify child support obligations. On October 1, 2010, these guidelines were modified, and any case filed after October 1, 2010 will be subject to the new guideline calculations.

Child support obligations are based primarily on the incomes of both parents, regardless of whether the parties were ever married. As part of the overall child support calculation, certain credits are given to each parent paying for any expenses of the child directly, for example, daycare, health insurance, and orthodontics. Although the court has the authority to deviate from the statutory guidelines, this only occurs in situations where the Court deems that use of the guideline amount will produce an unjust or inappropriate amount based on the circumstances of each individual case.

Once established, child support is always modifiable based upon a material change of circumstances. Even if two people agree that child support will remain the same for a period of time, the Court always reserves the authority to modify that amount upon the showing of a material change of circumstances, which might include the loss of a job or a significant change in the expenses and needs of the child.

Child support obligations will continue until the child reaches the age of 18 (or 19, if the child is still in high school). In the case of a child with disabilities, child support may continue after the age of 18.

Alimony (Spousal Support)

Alimony, or spousal support is an amount of money paid by one spouse to the other spouse following a divorce in order to compensate for the loss of income previously shared between the parties. The Court can award alimony for a specified period of time or indefinitely.

In Maryland, alimony is generally considered rehabilitative, which means that it is designed to help the dependent spouse become self-supporting over a period of time. In situations where the spouse cannot become completely self-supporting or the incomes of the parties after all reasonable progress is made by the dependent spouse are still very different, the court can award alimony for a prolonged or permanent basis.

Unlike child support, there are no specific guidelines to calculate an appropriate alimony amount. However, there are number of factors that the Court may consider when making an alimony determination. The factors that the Court may consider include:

Ø the ability of the party seeking alimony to be wholly or partly self-supporting;

Ø the time necessary for the party seeking alimony to gain sufficient education or training to enable that party to find suitable employment;

Ø the standard of living that the parties established during their marriage;

Ø the duration of the marriage;

Ø the contributions, monetary and nonmonetary, of each party to the well-being of the family;

Ø the circumstances that contributed to the estrangement of the parties;

Ø the age of each party;

Ø the physical and mental condition of each party;

Ø the ability of the party from whom alimony is sought to meet that party's needs while meeting the needs of the party seeking alimony;

Ø any agreement between the parties; and

Ø the financial needs and financial resources of each party

Since alimony considerations are made based on multiple factors, instead of statutory calculations, alimony awards can be difficult to predict. A good starting point would be to sit down with your attorney to go over your current financial situation, the financial picture you shared with your spouse, and each factor listed above. Your attorney should be able to give you an idea of what you may expect at trial.

To learn more about alimony, see our Family Law FAQs page, or schedule a consultation with our office.