Archive | Child Support

Custody Lawyers Determine Child Support Using the Maryland Child Support Guidelines.

Cinderella Child Support in Maryland

In any Maryland custody case the subject of financial issues surrounding the child or children is invariably raised  Sometimes divorced or separated parents desire to share expenses of the children on an ad hoc basis and have no formal order for support.  While that is not “legal” in Maryland, some people do it.

In fact, that may happen a greater percentage of the time than I might suspect because such people might never need our help.  Some people even do that without ever having a court order.

In a previous article The Maryland Child Support Magic Number (128) we discussed that there is a magic number of overnight visitations (128) whereby a parent would be entitled to review and possible reduction in child support because the support would be based upon the “shared custody” formula.  Maryland has an online calculator where the worksheets and computations are available http://www.dhr.state.md.us/CSOCGuide/App/disclaimer.do

Yet, from time to time, the definition of “overnights” has not been as clear as many people would like.  These are very unusual and uncommon circumstances but they have come up and will ,no doubt, come up again for someone.

Review of the child support code spells out how there are really two (2) child support formulas, one is called a “primary custody” worksheet and the other is called a “shared” child support worksheet.  Both are available at the online child support calculator above and also at the following link for divorce and custody forms http://mdcourts.gov/family/formsindex.html

Getting to 128?  Well, sometimes it’s not so clear what constitutes an overnight or overnights?  In some cases, the agreement or order may say the child(ren) are living with one parent but after an evolution of time it does not really work out that way.

Perhaps a parent is not available as intended, or there is illness or some other life event that results in the child(ren) being predominantly with the other parent.  In such a case, the child support may be modified even if it is predicated upon a projection.  That means a parent who was receiving (or paying) child support predicated upon 128 overnights per year does not have to wait 365 days so ask for the modification.  In fact, it would be imprudent to wait that long because the support can only be adjusted retroactively to the date it was requested.

By way of example:  If the arrangement was envisioned to be for 50/50 overnights, and between January 1st and April 1st one parent had the kids 100% of the of the overnights.  That parent (100%) can file to modify after April 1st because on that 1st quarter it is clearly not 50/50 in practice.

 

Yet you may ask, what is an “overnight?”

What about people on an early bird schedule over, “O’ dark -30” type?  Is having the children until 4am an overnight?  5? 6? 7?  What about a case where one parent has the children a substantial, if not a majority of the time but simply does not put them to bed and wake them up?

Maybe a Dad keeps his 3 year old child all day every weekday because he is disabled and does not work  for medical reasons.  It saves from any daycare expense but, what if he cannot keep the child overnight because of the same disability?  Should that count?

With respect to the former “early bird” question; I have experienced more than one judge treating the situation like “Cinderella” ie. after midnight is overnight.  With the dilemma of a parent spending the majority of time but not officially overnight, I have sometimes seen a judge set a compromise amount out of simple logic that “sleeping children cost nothing.”

While I don’t agree with either of the foregoing hard, fast  and even arbitrary conclusions, I take away this:   Fairness is part of the equation in any custody or domestic case.  In fact, the Circuit Court itself is defined as a “court of equity” and that charges the court with determining what is equitable ( ie. fair) http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/equitable

Fairness is always, hopefully, the Court’s goal at the end of the day.  Fairness is unfortunately subject and remember the custody courts primary goal is fairness to the children.

Tim Conlon, Esquire for The Custody Place

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Child Support Dirty Tricks – Voluntary Impoverishment

Voluntary Impoverishment and the calculation of child support

 

Does the income of a spouse count in the calculation of child support?  Is it voluntary impoverishment?

In Frederick County Child support and custody court, I observe people subjected to dirty tricks of all kinds.  I chronical these tales for people to be informed and advised of these dirty tricks.  Help describe how to spot them and how to defend against them.  Forewarned is forearmed.  This is not intended to be a guide to exercising such tricks on others.

One such dirty trick is “voluntary impoverishment.”

Voluntary impoverishment is artificially reducing one’s income to reduce or avoid child support and/or alimony obligations.

A party is “voluntarily impoverished” when the party has made a free and conscious choice, not compelled by factors beyond his or her control, to render himself or herself without adequate resources.

The classic tale is a one of a perennially unemployed or underemployed obligors.  Everytime they come to court they have lost a job, been laid off, don’t get 40 hours per week….etc.

Yet the most sure and unforgiving way to artificially increase or decrease a parent’s child support obligation is not a game, or a sham but a simple fact of life and it’s not voluntary impoverishment.  It’s the advice of every Pennsylvania Dutch mother: “Auch Heiraten.”  In English: “Marry Well.”

You see, a new spouse’s income does not count in computing a parent’s child support to another parent AKA the “ex.”  Soooo, if a man with a low  income re-marries a woman with a very high income, his child support to the ex is still low because it is only based upon his income.

Yet if a woman with a high income marries a new husband  with a low income she will still get minimal child support because it is based upon her income.  Ignore the fact that she is still supporting the child(ren) as well as her new underemployed, ruggedly handsome “himbo.”

Similarly if a woman with a low income is remarried to a wealthy husband she still gets child support based upon her low income.  Even if she drives the kids to school in a Rolls Royce and the dad takes a bus to work.  That’s that.

Tim Conlon, Esquire for The Custody Place

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Is There Any Way Aroung The Maryland Child Support Guidelines

Expenses that may change the Maryland child support guidelines

The Maryland Child Support Guidelines carry a presumption of correctness.  The relevant statute is below and is available at the following link.  http://www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/mdcode/

Md. FAMILY LAW Code Ann. § 12-202  (2013)

§ 12-202. Use of guidelines; modification of orders; review

  (a) Use required; presumptions; departure from guidelines. —

  (1) Subject to the provisions of paragraph (2) of this subsection, in any proceeding to establish or modify child support, whether pendente lite or permanent, the court shall use the child support guidelines set forth in this subtitle.

  (2) (i) There is a rebuttable presumption that the amount of child support which would result from the application of the child support guidelines set forth in this subtitle is the correct amount of child support to be awarded.

     What is a “presumption of correctness?”  It means that you can put forth evidence of the expenses for the child(ren) or for yourself but, unless that evidence is extremely compelling as described in section 12-202(a)(2)(iii), the court is required to set child support based upon the guidelines figures.  That section is enumerated below:

(2) (i) There is a rebuttable presumption that the amount of child support which would result from the application of the child support guidelines set forth in this subtitle is the correct amount of child support to be awarded.

     (ii) The presumption may be rebutted by evidence that the application of the guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate in a particular case.

     (iii) In determining whether the application of the guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate in a particular case, the court may consider:

        1. the terms of any existing separation or property settlement agreement or court order, including any provisions for payment of mortgages or marital debts, payment of college education expenses, the terms of any use and possession order or right to occupy the family home under an agreement, any direct payments made for the benefit of the children required by agreement or order, or any other financial considerations set out in an existing separation or property settlement agreement or court order; and

        2. the presence in the household of either parent of other children to whom that parent owes a duty of support and the expenses for whom that parent is directly contributing.

In a previous article we discussed expenses that might not normally be included in child support and which may have impact upon your case.. Those are the type of areas you want to explore if you think the guidelines are too low or too high by themselves.  Those included transportation costs for the children or either parent to spend time with the children, special educational needs to name a few.

Child Support Modification in Frederick Maryland

Tim Conlon, Esquire for The Custody Place

OUR PHONES ARE ANSWERED 24/7

CALL US NOW AT 301-865-1101

The Custody Place

19 NORTH COURT STREET FREDERICK MARYLAND 21701

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Are Your Child Support Dollars Going To YOUR Child Or Other Siblings?

Parents are not required to track how they spend child support dollars

I am often asked if a parent who is paying child support is entitled to an accounting or  some documentation to evidence that the parent receiving the child support is using it for the benefit of the parties’ child or children in common.

The short answer is no.  In fact it has been my experience that if a person asks for such evidence the judge actually can become visibly irritated by the suggestion that the money is not used for the benefit of the children.

That is not to suggest that the judge or judges have an unfair predisposition in favor of people receiving child support.

The Maryland statutes simply preclude examination of the issue because the support is “presumed” to be used for the child(ren’s) benefit.

In cases where the child support has been previously established by court order and/or agreement.

How this works is that child support is generally both a floor and a ceiling.  While child support payors often demand an accounting, the payee is not required to produce such an itemization of expenses for the child(ren).  That is spelled out in Section 12-204(I)(2):

(l) Cases other than shared physical custody cases. —

(2) The obligee shall be presumed to spend that parent’s total child support obligation directly on the child or children.

In my experience, the money enures to the benefit of the children in all but a small portion of the cases I have been involved in.  I think in the cases I have worked on, no more than 2.5% of the time has there been evidence that a significant amount of the household money was being diverted to expenses that were extravagant, illegal or purely for the benefit of an adult or adults.  I say this with all sincerity having represented both the parents paying and the parents being paid child support.

This presumption that the child support is being used for the benefit of the children does not mean you can’t ask for bank information and other financial information in the discovery process.  It just means that you shouldn’t be “grandstanding” in court  because your ex bought a new car etc.  On the other hand if the information leads to something worth banging on the table about, so be it.

In cases where the child support has yet to be established:

The Maryland Child Support Guidelines carry a presumption of being correct but the court can deviate from those guidelines if you put on a compelling case.  If you are the payor parent and you are looking for a deviation downward from the guidelines a new car payment is probably not going to do it.

On the other hand, if the parents live across the country from one another, or even across the state, there may be an offset for transportation because access with both parents is also presumed to be in the children’s best interest.  Bring Map Quest or Expedia statements to show your expenses.

Child Support Attorneys in Frederick Maryland

Tim Conlon, Esquire for The Custody Place

OUR PHONES ARE ANSWERED 24/7

CALL US NOW AT 301-865-1101

The Custody Place

19 NORTH COURT STREET FREDERICK MARYLAND 21701

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What Expenses are Included in My Child Support?

What Expenses Are Included in the payee’s child support and in the payor’s child support.

I worded the title of this article so that it addresses what expenses are included in child support from the point of view of both the payor AND the payee.

In the modern parlance of child custody and child support, the parent receiving child support is called either the “payee” or the “obligee” and the parent paying the support is called either an “obligor” or a “payor” parent.  Personally I think the “obligor” and “obligee” terms sound sort of obnoxious, but that is what the Maryland Code calls us and either is fine.

The Maryland Child Support Code

The Maryland Code regarding child support is contained in the Maryland Annotated Code, Family Law Volume Chapter 12 and at the following link to the Maryland Code online. http://www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/mdcode/

The general idea behind the child support guidelines is that you enter the income, overnights and certain expenses which are paid by each respective parent.  Thus in disputed child support cases this contention is always income, overnights, expenses or all three.

Every case is different.  In some cases the income is an issue but not the expenses.  In other cases the income is not in dispute but the overnights or the expenses are in dispute.

Generally speaking if you look at the above statute, you will see income is pretty much any income, and expenses that factor in are pretty much limited to child care, “extraordinary” medical expenses and school and/or transportation expenses.
Notable sections in the context of this article are the following:

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    …………………………Portions omitted……………………………………..

 

The foregoing is a cut and paste version of the important statutes and is not a substitute for same.  Nevertheless, the child support statutes don’t have an “other” type of a category and the expenses above have recently been clarified to address the more common problems like braces, psych stuff, health insurance etc.  

 

Some people take the black and white view that the exceptions that require contribution or support over the income based child support are inclusive.  In other words a payor owes child support, a portion of the expenses described in Sections 12-204  (g), (h) or (i) and that is it.

 

I don’t ascribe to that all inclusive view of child support for one reason, Christmas.  If you are a parent who pays child support, aren’t you getting your kid(s) something for Christmas?  If you answered no, ok just pay the child support and those qualified expenses and you are done.  Call me in 1-18 years and tell me how it worked out for you.

 

If you agree that it does not include Christmas, Birthdays etc. that is a starting point.  Thus you can see that at least MAYBE there are things that the law does not address.  If you can get ahold of that logic, look at the foregoing and you will see a pattern on how the courts treat special expenses.  In every case it reads “divided between the parents in proportion to their adjusted actual incomes.”

Thus a 16 year old son might want you both to pay his car insurance, sports equipment,, summer camp etc.  If you can work it out that the expenses be divided between the parents pro-rata according to their income, you can never go wrong.

Child Support Attorneys in Frederick Maryland

Tim Conlon, Esquire for The Custody Place

OUR PHONES ARE ANSWERED 24/7

CALL US NOW AT 301-865-1101

The Custody Place

19 NORTH COURT STREET FREDERICK MARYLAND 21701

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Finding the Child Support Sweet Spot

Custody Lawyers in Frederick Maryland will tell you there is a child support “sweet spot” for which child support obligors want to be mindful.

The sweet spot? It can actually benefit a child support payor to let the payee stay home with the child rather than work.

Before you can recognize this phenomenon, you have to know the basics.  Sort of like having to know that clorox and ammonia are good cleaning agents before you learn not to mix them together without the disastrous consequences that follow.  A poorly prosecuted child support case can also be disastrous.

The child support guidelines have been explained exhaustively in some of our previous articles, so I will call those to your attention here:

Using The Child Support Guidelines

What Are Frederick Maryland Child Support Guidelines?

Daycare A Child Support Guideline Factor

Dirty Tricks to Avoid (Daycare Part 1)

After you look at these articles, the guidelines and the factors in those calculations, some general maxims become clear.  One of those is that the higher the income of the custodial (or “Payee”) parent the lower the monthly child support obligation for the non-custodial (or “Payor”) parent.  Sin qua non, the higher the income of  the non-custodial parent the higher the monthly child support obligation.

Easy right?  Read on.  Based upon the foregoing maxims many, if not most, child support cases turn on the issue of “voluntary impoverishment.”  See our previous article “ Child Support in Frederick Md – Voluntary Impoverishment

Even if the disputed child support case does not raise to the complexity of a voluntary impoverishment analysis; both sides are still always trying to have the judge calculate that the other party’s income is as high as possible.  That however, is not always the best case to make.

Consider if you will, a divorcing couple with a 4yr old child.  The Mother has historically worked a part-time job or not worked at all.  Having moved from the marital home, the Father needs his child support to be the least it can be.  He convinces the court to assign a full time income to the Mother.

The Father earns $6000.00 per month and if Mom is permitted to have no income, that makes Father’s child support obligation $976.00 per month.  Dad balks at this amount and argues that nothing is preventing the Mom from working.  He asks the judge to calculate his child support based upon her having a job.

Having made a compelling argument that the Mom should get a job, the judge determines that she could work full time for minimum wage.  That would make Mother’s income $1300.00 per month before taxes.  Taken alone, that reduces Father’s child support to $887.65.

Well, “every little bit helps!” says Dad.  Right?  Then, right before Father slaps a big high five with his lawyer, the judge says the following:

 “In light of Mother’s need to work full-time, I am going to factor in the expense of work related day care.”

The judge points out that Mother indicated that child care for her 4 year old would be $150 per week or $650 per month.  When you factor that into the guidelines, Dad’s support jumps to $1421.95 per month.

 If Dad and his lawyer are lucky, the judge will let them take the lower amount without attributing the full time income to Mother.

If he is even more lucky, the judge will not assess attorney’s fees against him for this lesson in child support calculations. As human beings embroiled in an adversarial process, people sometimes convince themselves of their own position so effectively that they lose site of the potential pitfalls associated with that position.

The Maryland Department of Health and Human services has a website where you can calculate child support  guidelines: http://www.dhr.state.md.us/CSOCGuide/App/selectWorksheet.do  I am not convinced this website helps because people tweek and tweek and tweek the numbers until they see what they want to see.

There is no substitute for consulting with a lawyer and always participate in mediation, if only just to hear the potential retorts to your theory of what is most financially beneficial.

Also, don’t sell short the benefits of a child having a stay at home parent, even if that home is a broken one.

Timothy Conlon, Esquire for The Custody Place

OUR PHONES ARE ANSWERED 24/7

CALL US NOW AT 301-865-1101

The Custody Place

19 NORTH COURT STREET FREDERICK MARYLAND 21701

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The Maryland Child Support Magic Number (128)

There is a “Magic Number” associated with the Maryland Child Support Guidelines and that number is 128.

Custody Lawyers in Frederick County, Maryland will explain to you that when child support is calculated there are two forms, templates or formats you can employ in calculating the Maryland Child Support Guidelines.

Those templates are the “Primary Custody Guidelines Worksheet” and the “Shared Custody Guidelines Worksheet” format.  They are designated Worksheet A and Worksheet B respectively.  These worksheets can be found at the Maryland Department of Human Relations website indicated at the following link:

http://www.dhr.state.md.us/CSOCGuide/App/selectWorksheet.do

The single distinction between these two formulas is the number of overnights the child(ren) spend with the “non-custodial parent.”  When we refer to people as the “non-custodial” parent it is an outdated term, particularly when we are talking about cases that one parent has 183 overnights of the year and the other parent has 182 overnights per year.  Nevertheless, those are the terms in the statutes and the worksheets, so there you are.

Application of the Primary Custody worksheet is appropriate where either of the parents’ overnights with the child(ren) are LESS than 128.  The Maryland Annotated Code expresses shared custody as more than 35% of the overnights and that percentage equates to 128 or more overnights.

Now, this rule of 35% is hard and fast.  While the mantra of the Maryland Family Law Court is to “do equity,” this rule of 128 works a pretty rough and arbitrary justice upon a parent who has the child(ren) a significant part of the time but still less than 128 overnights.  Consider the following.

If a Dad has his kid(s) 127 overnights of the year, his child support obligation (all other things being equal) is the same child support as the Dad who has only one overnight of the year.  So we see that in the Primary Custody formula the overnights of the payor parent are irrelevant.  The only factors in that consideration are incomes, and qualified expenses.

Now, if the Dad above had 128 or more overnights, the number of overnights becomes a factor in the calculation.  At 128…129…130 etc. the Dad pays a little less support with each increasing overnight.

Let’s look at a hypothetical case of parents where Dad has 127 overnights with the kids and then compare him to a Dad with 128 overnights.

If the hypothetical Mom has custody of 2 kids and she makes $4000 per month and Dad makes $5000 per month the Dad’s basic support is $935.63 per month.  If that Dad has 0-127 overnights, $935.00 is the monthly child support number.  That’s it.  Overnights don’t matter.

If that same Dad had 128 overnights, his child support is only $517.58 per month.  If he has 135 overnights, he pays $469.08 per month and at 155 overnight he pays $ 330.65 per month. Finally, at 182 overnights this Dad’s child support is only $143.99 per month.

“Wait” you say?  Your buddy told you, if you have the children half the time, there is no support obligation?  Nope. Tell him not to quit his day job.

Even if the parents have split custody, there will always be a child support obligation so long as one parent makes more than the other.

In fact, usually the respective incomes of the parents are not the only factors included in the guidelines.  When you put health insurance, daycare and some uninsured medical expenses into the picture a joint custody parent can have a substantial obligation to the other, even if he/she has the child(ren) half the time.

Once a parent has the above information about the sliding scale of overnights, a full out war can be waged to hit the magic 128.  Sadly, this kind of dispute can be for its own sake.  Parents exchange all sorts of topsy turvy schedules that are not logical or in the child(rens) best interest, with the sole purpose to obtain, or to avoid, hitting this magic number.

If no agreement can be reached and the parents have to take their case to court, a judge will be constrained to do the math as outlined above.  That judge will have little time or interest in cramming together a unique schedule, just to hit the magic number.   As always, reaching an agreement with the other parent is the best way to prevent injustice in the child custody and support world.

Primary Physical Custody Worksheet in Maryland

Timothy Conlon, Esquire for The Custody Place

OUR PHONES ARE ANSWERED 24/7

CALL US NOW AT 301-865-1101

The Custody Place

19 NORTH COURT STREET FREDERICK MARYLAND 21701

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Calculating Child Support in Carroll County MD

What Counts As Income For Calculating Child Support In Carroll County, Maryland?

 

Do unemployment income, social security and disability count as “income” under the Maryland Child Support Guidelines?

Is Leaving The Workforce To Stay Home With The Children Voluntary Impoverishment?

The “new economy” is changing the face of child support.  In the salad days of our national economy when the real estate bubble was puff-puffing away the Family Law Courts of Maryland were called upon to determine such questions as whether company cars were income for purposes of calculating child support.  Well, times they are a changin’… and  boy have they changed.

Income is the preeminent factor in the child support guidelines, but what counts as income?

Maryland Courts

Over the past 5-6 years the questions more frequently presented to the child support courts in Maryland and Carroll County are as follows:  Does unemployment count in my child support?  Does my severance pay?  Does Social Security?  Does disability?

As previously discussed, the Maryland Child Support Guidelines work like this.  You  take the income from both parents, add them together, match that total to a child support obligation table and the non-custodial parent pays his/her percentage to the other parent.  Thus, we see that income is the very first factor we bring to the formula.

But what is income?  Isn’t that a question that only a lawyer would ask?  You know, cock his head to the left, look right at you and ask, “what is income?”  I mean if you didn’t laugh, you’d cry but there it is…What is income?  For purposes of child support in Maryland, “income” is defined under the Maryland Annotated Code, Family Law Volume Section 12-201(b)(3).

Unemployment is counted as income, severance pay may be counted as income

Starting with unemployment benefits.  When the economy took a downward turn people began to be laid off from Taneytown to Reistertown in record numbers and most of them were not hired back.  Their benefits were extended and extended again.  For the first 6 months to a year most of the single, divorced or separated parents who were enduring these problems just waited it out.

But then, when the problem wore on, more and more of these cases went to our Carroll County Court in Westminster.  Presented with the question, we find that unemployment benefits are income for computation in the guidelines pursuant to Family Law Code Section 12-201(b)(3)(xii).  In some fortunate cases, the parents who were involuntarily separated from employment received severance pay.

Severance pay is a “may” with respect to income under the guidelines.  That means that the judge “may” determine that the severance pay for a parent in Mount Airy should count as income in a child support calculation for his children in Union Bridge.  Despite my near daily appearance in child support court, it has been so long since I was involved in a case where one of the parents was lucky enough to receive severance pay.  The last time was a man in Eldersburg and I don’t remember if the judge counted it as income or not.  Nevertheless, it is clearly up to the judge, as set forth in Maryland Family Law Code Section 12-201(b)(4)(i).

Social security counts as income but retiring from the work force alone may not be voluntary impoverishment

Child Custody and Divorce

Since the economy flattened out at best and has not, as of yet, rebounded we have also seen that any parents who could retire; did retire.  This raised the social security issue as income.   Now, most parents with children who are young enough to be entitled to child support do not qualify for social security retirement in the traditional sense.

If a payor parent in New Windsor does receive social security income in the form of a retirement it counts as income pursuant to Maryland Family Law Code Section 12-201(b)(3)(x).  More typically the “early retirement” of a parent with school age children is a decision to stay home with the child and avoid the significant expense of child care.

You really can’t blame someone in Westminster with two children who pays 300 dollars per week after taxes for child care for choosing to forgo a job with a 400 or 500 per week income before taxes.  This phenomenon has had a devastating impact upon the child care industry.  They sustained record losses in 2008 through 2011 but from what a friend in Mount Airy told me the demand and supply has now flattened  out.

When a parent perceives his or her child support is unfairly high because his/her ex has elected this “opt out” form or retirement there is little comfort to be had.  While “voluntary impoverishment” is a claim one can make if a parents income is voluntarily manipulated downward it is often unsuccessful in this situation.   It is defined in Maryland Family Law Code Section 12-204(b).

For example, a parent in Hampstead might protest that his ex has left the workforce voluntarily and stays home with his children while her new husband works in Manchester as the sole household income.  A quick witted judge will foil such claim by a payor parent pointing out that if income is attributed to the mother the child care expense for the children would render such decision a “wash.”

Disability is counted as income but third party payments are credited to the disabled parent

The last income dilemma which often arises in these tough economic times is the most troubling.  Faced with little else, the roles of those on disability are growing in record numbers.  Ten years ago I would estimate that my cases where one of the non-retirement age parents was on disability would be well below 10%.

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Today, I would estimate that 20% of the Carroll County cases I handle involve a scenario where one of the parents is on disability.  That is a very real and a very stark reality.  What’s more troubling is that in a growing percentage of those 20% BOTH of the parents are on disability.

Some of those people are malingerers plain and simple.  In contrast, some were physically disabled but suffered in silence when work was available and now just say “the hell with it” since they can’t work anyway.  Many others are people who are disabled for emotional and psychological reasons, no doubt exacerbated by lack of opportunity for gainful employment.
Disability payments are income pursuant to Maryland Family Law Code Section 12-201(b)(3)(xiii).

There is yet another nuance to this form of income in its relationship to child support.  Many forms of disability pay a collateral benefit to the child or children of the disabled.  That third party payment is credited to a disabled payor parent pursuant to Maryland Family Law Code Section 12-204(j)(1) as though he/she paid the money directly.

Timothy Conlon, Esquire for The Custody Place

OUR PHONES ARE ANSWERED 24/7

CALL US NOW AT 301-865-1101

The Custody Place

19 NORTH COURT STREET FREDERICK MARYLAND 21701

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Day Care Has A Big Impact On Child Support

How Do Frederick County Lawyers and Judges Address Issues of Summertime Daycare Expenses?

 

As you may recall, in previous articles we have discussed and explained how child day care, defined as “work related child care,” has a significant impact upon the child support guidelines in a particular case. Those guidelines are set forth in the Maryland Annotated Code, Family Law Article Sections 12-101 through 12-204.

As previously discussed, one calculates the “basic” child support obligation for a non-custodial parent and then certain qualified expenses borne by the primary custody parent then get added onto the “total” child support obligation.  Day care or “work related child care” is one of those add on expenses.

For example: If a custodial parent in Frederick earns 1/4 of the parents’ combined incomes, the non-custodial parent in Urbana owes 3/4 of any daycare expenses and his child support obligation is increased by 3/4 of that expense. So, if a payee parent pays (or claims to pay) $800 in daycare, it increases the bottom line child support by $600 !!

In short, a parent who pays child support really pays support plus a percentage of the other parent’s “work related child care.”  Often a large, even a disproportionate, amount of that child care.

Summer vacation and day care

Of importance for this article is that different Frederick daycare providers have different policies regarding summer vacation and those policies can prove an issue of contention for single and divorcing parents. With respect to summer vacation and daycare there are several things we need to keep in mind.

The 1st:  52 weeks of day care can cost 54 weeks of tuition.  Day care providers in Frederick who are private “home based” providers and don’t work within a school setting often put into their day care contract that the parents have to make alternative arrangements for 1 or 2 weeks of day care in the summer.

In effect, the day care provider will take a vacation and the parents will still be responsible for their weekly or monthly day care of obligation but the daycare provider will not be caring for the child or children during that 1 or 2 week period.

The first time I heard about this policy I thought it sounded pretty obnoxious.  After  thinking about it, I am sure it is obnoxious.  What other small business or sole proprietorship charges people when they are closed for business??  Nevertheless, it is a fact of life.

In the interest of being fair, I am advised that the day care industry in the new economy has suffered a great deal . The new economy is of course a euphemism for the financial and economic doldrums in which the country now finds itself morassed. When parents in Frederick began to lose jobs there was an immediate effect upon enrollments and it was a disaster.

Then as the economy continued to flounder, people made other arrangements, sometimes eliminating part-time work for one spouse in favor of a savings in child care.  Of course, there are also grandparents and relatives who have become unemployed and/or taken early retirement.  In the end, it has flattened out but there are 25% fewer children in day care today than there were in 2007.

So with respect to this first dilemma; single, divorced and divorcing parents find it necessary to make alternative day care arrangements for that 1 week or 2 weeks of vacation that the daycare provider takes.
In some ideal cases the child or children spend this same time with one or each of the parents.  In other cases, the parents put the child or children in a summer camp and in yet some other cases the child or children have a “staycation” with one of the parents or a relative.

This sometimes poses a question as to which parent is responsible to a make the alternative arrangements, pay for those arrangements and/or take time off from work if necessary.  In the end, a payor parent in this scenario might pay a $625 per month for his day care contribution.

The 2nd:  52 weeks of day care can cost 50 weeks of tuition.  Another day care, vacation problem that people in Frederick face is a problem that most normal parents are happy to have.

In some of the school based day care contracts in Frederick a family actually accrues a vacation benefit.  For example, Celebree Day Care offers a free week with each calendar year up to a maximum of two weeks from the third year forward.  There is not only no closed week that the family pays for enrollment but in fact during the family vacation there is no charge for the child or children’s enrollment.

Believe it or not, this can provoke a dispute.  Was the child support calculated on 50 weeks of day care not 52?   At the above $800 per month daycare figure that really equates to $767 per month not $800 if it is a 50 week obligation.

Employing the above ratios that means the ¾ obligation would be $575.25 per month versus $600.  Some people would call that splitting hairs.  By another way of thinking, $25 per month is $300 per year.
If you face either of the above scenarios communication with the other parent is always the preferred way the sort out the financial nuance of your day care provider’s policies.  In the end how you handle it is up to you but if the parents can’t agree the judge will often go strictly by the numbers.

Timothy Conlon, Esquire for The Custody Place

OUR PHONES ARE ANSWERED 24/7

CALL US NOW AT 301-865-1101

The Custody Place

19 NORTH COURT STREET FREDERICK MARYLAND 21701

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Health Insurance And Child Support in Hagerstown MD

Health insurance paid for coverage of the child(ren) is a factor to be considered in the Maryland Child Support Guidelines

When divorce and custody lawyers in Hagerstown, Maryland or other communities in Washington County are computing a parent’s child support obligation, they must include the cost of any health insurance paid for the child(ren).

Custody Lawyers in Hagerstown

Other factors can impact a parent’s child support obligation. Those include each parent’s respective income, voluntary impoverishment, overnights with each respective parent, work related child care and other acceptable expenses like special educational or extraordinary medical expenses. Many Maryland courts, including Hagerstown, have also included reasonable travel expenses for visitation as a qualifying expense.

Parties who are seeking child support in Washington county, but who do not have a lawyer, should go to the Department of Social Services building on North Potomac Street where they will open or re-open a child support case for 25 dollars.

Waiver For Filing Fee

Health insurance is what is known as a “below the line” expense so the parent who pays for the health insurance is reimbursed pro-rata by the respective income of the other parent. That means:

if the parent paying health insurance works in Hagerstown and earns $1000 per month and the other parent works in Hagerstown and earns $3000 per month the parent paying health insurance is reimbursed 3/4ths or 75% by the other parent. If that reimbursement is not made directly, this will be part of the child support obligation.

Health insurance tends to be a rather straightforward factor in the computation of the Maryland Child support guidelines. I have also often seen it be the ONLY thing two parents can agree upon. I believe that is probably because virtually anyone can acknowledge: 1) a child having health insurance is important, 2) health insurance is usually an expense that can be quantified by simple review of a parent’s paycheck. I also see in the “new economy” that often only one parent has health insurance available, so usually, the other parent is just happy that it is even available for the child.

When there are disagreements surrounding health insurance for a child those tend to be disagreements about:
1) How much of the health insurance premium is specifically for the child(ren)?
2) Can both parents use the health insurance with the child (eg. having cards etc)?
3) Is the health insurance of any real value for the child?

Employers rarely permit a parent to purchase health insurance just for the child, so the employee parent and the child(ren) are usually covered. That raises the question how do we determine what percentage of the health insurance is for the actual benefit of the child?

The foregoing question becomes more difficult to navigate the more parties and children are on the policy. Take for example the modern family where a hypothetical mother lives in Hagerstown and has three children. Two of the children are from her current marriage in and the third child is from a previous relationship. She pays health insurance provided from her employer also in Hagerstown under a “family plan.” The expense is $100 per month and is deemed a “family plan” by her employer and it is neither defined nor paid on a per capita (per person) basis. It is generally accepted that the children would be deemed to cost the mother $20 per child for purposes of the guidelines.

The value of the health insurance and the ability for both parents to take advantage of the insurance is also key to whether the court will include it in the guidelines. It should go without saying that a parent in Hagerstown with two (2) health insurance cards should give the other card to the other parent. Please don’t go to court without sharing those cards it is routinely something that Hagerstown Judges find to be gamesmanship and in bad faith. Recently more and more health insurance companies issue only one card per policyholder. You may be able to mitigate the impact of that practice by sharing one pediatrician and having the card.

With health insurance on everyone’s mind these days, some people are using two policies. I have never seen a judge decline to permit a second policy to be included in the guidelines. But, like anything else, I am sure a person who strains logic might not be permitted to include the health insurance.

If you are squabbling about your ex using your child’s health insurance premium in the guidelines I think you do so at your peril. On the other hand, if you are paying for a duplicate policy just because you “would rather pay $2 to a health insurance company than pay $1 to her,” you might choke on a bitter pill indeed.

Timothy Conlon, Esquire for The Custody Place

Custody Lawyers in Hagerstown MD

OUR PHONES ARE ANSWERED 24/7

CALL US NOW AT 301-865-1101

The Custody Place

19 NORTH COURT STREET FREDERICK MARYLAND 21701

 

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