Understanding Child Support

Young girl sitting on parents shoulders

When a marriage ends, caring for the offspring becomes more complex. Maryland has distinct guidelines in the ways payment between guardians is calculated as well as how it is enforced.

How It’s Calculated

When determining an amount, a court considers the income of each person, the number of overnights the children spend per party, care expenses incurred due to employment or job search, the cost of health insurance, and any extraordinary medical expenses not covered. A court may also consider the cost of attending private school.

If one parent is responsible for 273 or more overnights per year, support is determined using the sole custody guidelines. If the non-custodial party has 92 or more overnights per year, it’s determined using the shared custody guidelines. The amount calculated using these is usually less than that of the sole custody guidelines.

If the combined income of the parents is under $15,000 per month, the state determines payment amounts. New regulations will go into effect beginning July 1, 2022, and will expand up to combined earnings of $30,000 monthly.

The guidelines are mandatory, and the amount they determine is presumed to be correct. However, in certain cases where applying them would be unjust or inappropriate, a court may deviate from them.

In cases where the combined income of the parties is greater than the maximum amount of income under the schedule, the court makes a decision based on the best interest of the minors. However, this amount cannot be lower than what it would be under the highest income level in the guidelines.

Parties may agree on a set amount for payments. Alternatively, a court may enter an Earnings Withholding Order where a specific amount is taken from the non-custodial parent’s paycheck and paid to the custodian.


If court orders are not being followed, there are various methods of enforcement. This can happen by the party receiving direct compensation or by the local Office of Child Support Enforcement.

One of the most effective ways of enforcing the payment is through a contempt proceeding against the non-paying parent. This is used to force someone to comply with a court order. Assuming that owed money is court-ordered, it can be enforced by filing a contempt action for the failure to pay. After a finding of contempt is made, the non-paying parent is given an opportunity to comply. If that doesn’t happen, they may be imprisoned for contempt.

If a case is being handled by an enforcement office and support is in arrears, then the office may use one or more of the following remedies:

  • report the offender to a consumer reporting agency
  • request financial information about them from a financial institution
  • institute garnishment proceedings against their accounts
  • intercept income tax refunds
  • intercept lottery winnings
  • suspend a driver’s license
  • suspend or deny a business license
  • revoke or deny a passport. 

Contact a Family Lawyer to Handle Your Concerns

Whether you’re seeking to collect payment or feel they will be financially unfair, we have the experience to help you navigate through the process.

Contact the experienced family law offices of Meiselman Helfant & Wills for all of your questions, or click here for additional information.

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