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
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
Take actual income of each
parent, and then adjust by subtracting:
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
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?