Voishan v. Palma
327 Md. 318, 609 A.2d 319 (1992)

  • John and Margaret married and had two children. Then they got a divorce.
  • As part of the divorce agreement, Margaret got custody of the kids and John had to pay $500 a month per child in child support.
    • A few years later, that was raised to $720 a month per child.
  • A few years after that, John asked the Court to find Margaret in contempt of her visitation order.
  • The Court not only found that Margaret was not in contempt, but decided to more the double the amount of child support John had to pay.
    • At the time only one kid was still getting support (the other was now too old), and the payments were modified from $720 a month to $1550 per child.
  • John appealed, claiming that the Court could not modify the child support without making a finding of a material change in circumstances. In addition, he argued that $1550 was too much.
  • The Maryland Supreme Court affirmed.
    • The Maryland Supreme Court found that John was making more money, and his attorney conceded that Margaret should get an increase, so there was an implicit material change in circumstances, the Trial Court didn't have to explicitly state what that was.
    • The Court found that Maryland State law (Family Law Article 12-201) has detailed instructions and tables for how to calculate child support payments.
      • John made so much money that his income was higher than the largest number in the tables. He argued that the largest number in the table should be considered a cap, but the Court was not persuaded and calculated the $1550 based on an extrapolation of the table to John's income bracket.
    • John argued that the $1550 was even more than what the tables would say even if they were extrapolated. However, the Court found that the tables were just a guide, and the Trial Court had discretion to modify the payments.
      • The Court found that the courts are to consider the parent's financial circumstances, the needs of the child, and then apportion the reasonable expenses of the child.
  • This decision is a good example of how a court uses the Income Shares Model to determine child support. It is the child support model used by the majority of States. It works like this:
    • Take actual income of each parent, and then adjust by subtracting:
      • Preexisting reasonable child support obligations actually paid,
      • Alimony or maintenance obligations actually paid,
      • The actual cost of providing health insurance coverage for a child for whom the parents are jointly and severally responsible.
    • What's left is the adjusted actual income for the two parents. Add them both together and look it up on a table to find out how much money the child deserves.
    • Then add in any work-related child care expenses, extraordinary medical expenses, and school and transportation expenses.
    • Then, split the amount between the two parents according to their incomes. So if the kid is due $900 a month, and one parent makes double the other parent, then the lower income earner is responsible for $300, and the higher income earner is responsible for $600.
    • However, this amount is just the presumption. It can be rebutted by evidence that the amount would be unjust or inappropriate.
      • Aka what would have been the child's needs absent the parent's divorce?