In Maryland, when the Circuit Court determines child support, depending on the total combined gross income of both parents, it uses an algebraic formula commonly referred to as “child support guidelines.” The formula considers the number of children, the income of each parent, and the percentage of time the children are in each parent’s care and other expenses paid by each parent, such as work-related child care and health insurance. The following blog, written by Barney Connaughton, Esq., family law attorney and mediator discusses alternatives to Child Support Guidelines and how it relates to mediation.
Is There Any Alternative to Guideline Child Support?
Couples can reach agreement to a support amount that is greater or less than the guideline amount. For the Court to accept such an agreement the couple is required to acknowledge their right to have support set by guideline, that their agreement is in the best interest of the children and will allow each parent to adequately meet the needs of the children. If child support is set in a sum less than the guideline amount, the receiving parent can later petition the Court to have the amount increased to the guideline level which the Court will do given the mandate to order support consistent with the state guidelines.
Mediation gives the couple flexibility regarding the setting of child support. They may choose to stick to a guideline level of support, or they may look at the needs of each household and come up with a level of support that focuses more on how each of their needs can be best met. Guideline child support provides the Court with a quick mechanism to set support. Unfortunately, this level of support may either be unrealistic to the parent obligated to pay or insufficient for the supported parent to meet the needs of the children. Looking at all the circumstances of the couple, rather than just the inputs that the guideline calculations call for, can aid in making a support decision that is best for the whole family.