Child support is mandatory in Annapolis, Maryland family law. The child support guidelines provide a presumptive amount from which it is hard to vary.
When most folks think of divorce they immediately think of MONEY. How much is this going to cost me? Will I get alimony? How much child support will I be required to pay? How much am I going to have to pay in attorneys’ fees? Can I get my spouse to contribute to my counsel fees?
It is understandable that anyone facing a divorce will consider its financial consequences. It is not hyperbole to say that divorce can devastate a family financially and that doesn’t even consider the emotional costs. Similarly, it makes sense that parties would seek to manage their costs by trading certain assets for others and bargaining away some rights in order to get other rights. Most of the time this “horse trading” is perfectly legitimate with one notable exception, which is the subject of this week’s question.
Despite what I have written above, parties still find ways to reduce child support. For example, some parents agree to have child support calculated on a “shared custody” basis, even though they know that the child will primarily be in one parent’s care so that the child support owed by the non-custodial parent is less than it otherwise would be. Some parents will enter into settlement agreements in which one parent is charged with paying for some child-related expense that is not included in the child support calculation (i.e. transportation costs of the minor child, private school tuition, extracurricular activities, summer camps) as a means of justifying a downward deviation from the child support guidelines. There is nothing inherently wrong with this practice so long as the adjustment in support still serves the “best interests of the child.”
Although highly motivated parties can find creative workarounds in the Maryland Child Support Guidelines, the guidelines and the minimum support principles that it imposes on each parent serves a useful function. It reinforces the notion that a child deserves the care and support of each of its parents regardless of how modest or substantial a child’s parent’s financial means may be.