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Child support overhaul progresses in Maryland

MD-OpeningDay-House.JPGMaryland's House of Delegates on Saturday passed a bill to overhaul the state's child support guidelines for the first time in more than 20 years, setting up a compromise battle with the Senate, which has passed a different version of the reform.

Both bills now working their way through the legislature would significantly increase child support payments required of noncustodial parents from newly split homes. But the House rejected a measure that could allow hundreds of thousands of parents who have custody to seek court-ordered increases to their current agreements.

The Senate version would allow parents in October to begin petitioning for more money if the amount they could receive under the new guidelines would go up by 25 percent or more. The House bill would only apply to future child support arrangements, and it would not take effect until Oct. 2011.

Another difference: The Senate version would dictate child support for parents making up to a combined $360,000 annually; the House version would stop applying beyond combined income above $180,000 annually.

Both bills, however, have the same chart that would guide the amount parents would owe. Most parents making a combined $25,000 a year would have to pay $349-per-month. The amount would be split proportionally among each parent's salary.

For parents making roughly $50,000 combined, that monthly amount they would split for one child would be about $581, and for three children, $1132.

The House version caps out $1,942 for the amount split for one child, and $3,379 for three children between parents making a combined $180,000 a year.

The max in the Senate version is $3,864 for one child and $6,758 for three children if both parents make a combined $360,000 annually

On Saturday, Del. Tony McConkey (R-Anne Arundel) blasted the House version, saying that despite many better alternatives the House Judiciary Committee agreed to a restrictive "one-size-fits-all" approach.

"I want more realism in these guidelines," McConkey said. "Not every situation is the same."

waldstreicher.jpgDel. Jeffrey D. Waldstreicher, (D-Montgomery), is the primary sponsor of the House version that passed on Saturday. The measure passed 114-25.

"It's a good bill," he said. "We did a lot of work on it."

Maryland's current guidelines were enacted in 1989 in response to a federal mandate. The state is one of nine that has not updated its child support schedule since then, according to Maryland legislative analysts.

While Maryland ranks first in the nation in median income, the state's nonpartisan fiscal analyst says the amount recommended for child support ranks 41st among all states.

By Aaron C. Davis  |  March 27, 2010; 9:07 PM ET
Categories:  Aaron C. Davis  
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Comments

As several lawyers and economists have noted, child support levels in Maryland are too high already, and the bill is wrong to increase them further:

"Under the child support guidelines, child support already goes up along with income, since child support is based on income -- the higher your income, the higher your child support obligations. Child costs like toys are rising slower than costs in general."

At the following link is a lawyer's detailed explanation of why Maryland's child support schedule is too high already and doesn't need an increase:

www.examiner.com/x-7812-DC-SCOTUS-Examiner~y2010m2d5-Child-Support-Bill-Would-Increase-Already-Excessive-Obligations-Based-on-Erroneous-Rationale

As one commenter noted, "The child support increase bill selectively ignores actual child costs, as its Fiscal and Policy Note unintentionally reveals. On page 3, it says, 'The Child Support Guidelines Advisory Committee found that in applying current estimates of child-rearing expenditures across the board for all incomes, there was a higher percentage increase to incomes below $10,000 and a lower percentage increase to incomes above $10,000.' Yet, 'the committee applied the 'average' increase in award amounts for incomes below $10,000 to those incomes above $10,000.'"

Posted by: sampere1 | March 27, 2010 9:29 PM | Report abuse

The above comment is inaccurate. First, currently Maryland ranks 41st among states in child support payments. Second the current guideline schedule does not have a trigger for inflation or a cost of living percentage. It based on economic data and child rearing costs from the 1970's and 1980's. Its been 22 years since the child support guidelines have been updated.
No one can argue that housing, transportation, and food have all gone up since 1988. For example what did gas cost in 1988-- about 88 cents, what did a gallon of milk cost--about $1.69, what did the average house in Maryland cost--about $100,000. Not one person can dispute that it cost more today than it did in 1988 to raise children, not one and not because of the mere cost of toys. Children who because of no fault of there own and don't live with both parents, deserve better. In Maryland there are about 500,000 child support cases, about 250,000 of the 500,000 are supervised by the state. There are about 2 children per case, so you do the math. We owe it to our children to do the right thing. Children should not be the victims of a broken relationship or a bad economy...... I am tired of people more concerned about the person who pays than the children they should support..... kudos to the Maryland General Assembly for supporting children.

Posted by: tamelabresnahan | March 28, 2010 4:07 AM | Report abuse

The above comment is inaccurate. First, currently Maryland ranks 41st among states in child support payments. Second the current guideline schedule does not have a trigger for inflation or a cost of living percentage. It based on economic data and child rearing costs from the 1970's and 1980's. Its been 22 years since the child support guidelines have been updated.
No one can argue that housing, transportation, and food have all gone up since 1988. For example what did gas cost in 1988-- about 88 cents, what did a gallon of milk cost--about $1.69, what did the average house in Maryland cost--about $100,000. Not one person can dispute that it cost more today than it did in 1988 to raise children, not one and not because of the mere cost of toys. Children who because of no fault of there own and don't live with both parents, deserve better. In Maryland there are about 500,000 child support cases, about 250,000 of the 500,000 are supervised by the state. There are about 2 children per case, so you do the math. We owe it to our children to do the right thing. Children should not be the victims of a broken relationship or a bad economy...... I am tired of people more concerned about the person who pays than the children they should support..... kudos to the Maryland General Assembly for supporting children.

Posted by: tamelabresnahan | March 28, 2010 4:08 AM | Report abuse

Maryland's child support guidelines are clearly too high, not too low. It is Tamela Bresnahan's comment that is inaccurate.

Child support automatically goes up with inflation. Child support guidelines are like the tax code: inflation increases your obligations, since your obligations are based on your wages, which go up along with inflation (even though you are not really making any more money, except on paper, thanks to inflation). Just like your taxes, your child support relentlessly rises due to inflation.

Arguing that child support should be increased even because of inflation -- when inflation is already built into the child support guidelines -- is just double-counting that adds insult to injury.

This endlessly repeated talking point that Maryland is 41st in child support is likely false because it is based on an apples-to-oranges comparison. Some of the difficulties of trying to compare different states guidelines are discussed by a lawyer at the following link:

www.freedomaction.net/profiles/blogs/meaningless-child-support

That lawyer's explanation of why the child support guidelines are too high, not too low, is at the following link:

www.examiner.com/x-7812-DC-SCOTUS-Examiner~y2010m2d5-Child-Support-Bill-Would-Increase-Already-Excessive-Obligations-Based-on-Erroneous-Rationale

Posted by: sampere1 | March 28, 2010 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Your article is inaccurate, the combined income does not set the child support amount it is the percentage that each person earns of that combined amount. If this bill passes, fathers could see child support payments at $5,000 per month for two kids in extreme cases and where the father earns 200K and the mother earns 36K as an example the father could be paying 40K per year inchild support.

This bill is not about providing adequate child support for kids. This is about redistributing income between two former spouses out of "liberal fairness". That was the purpose of alimony and alimony stopped if the other spouse remarried this will not stop.

The feminist lobby opposed an amendment which would have attempted to give the fathers equal time with their kids. In Maryland 91.7% of all custodial parents are women.

Delegate McConkey and a few others in the house judiciary should be commended for thier taking the time to go through this bill thoroughly. The Senate with the exception of Bob Zirkin and Alan Kittleman gave this bill little scrutiny and accepted the word of those lobbying for it.

Posted by: Todd18 | March 28, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Child support is based on percentage of income that each person earns based on the combined income. It only goes up or down if you go back and reopen your case. I earned just above the state's median income and my exhusband wasn't working at the time we went to court (he thought he could get out of paying) so it was based on him getting at least a minimum wage job (this was before the federal mininum wage increased). At the time the federal minimum wage was lower than the actual paid minimum wage in Montgomery county. Our court order requires him to pay $329 per month total for our 3 kids. That doesn't pay for electricity or groceries,or half of day care. It doesn't even cover the cost of school lunches.

It has been five years, I could go back an reopen the case, but since he is in arrears- why bother? Mind you, he worked during the marriage and he works now, but never caught up. In my situation, it forces an irresponsible person to pay up. It is now where near his "fair share." But when I do get it a child support payment, it sure beats not getting anything.

Child support is not about redistribution of wealth. It's about support of the child. We are not talking about maintaining a life style that the kids were accustomed (i.e. toys and cable), but is covering school lunch or day care too much to ask?

The guidelines need to be revisited because the median incomes have increased as well as other costs of living. It would save court time and money because the current maximum income for the published guidelines are below what many in the DC metro area of the state earn. Since my initial court order, we both have received raises so our combined income is over the chart. It would be nice to be able to use the formula, rather than go before a judge.

Posted by: KarenC2 | March 28, 2010 4:54 PM | Report abuse

Karen,

You are exactly correct in your case which is why Del McConkey said one size does not fit all. In my circumstances the kids are with me 50% of the time and my exwife has a new husband who only works part time. They put in an inground pool, hut tubs and remodeled the home for 2 of his 5 kids by three different women. They have just filed for bankruptcy. Why should I have to pay them $3,876 per month for 2 kids with them 15 days while he sleeps on the couch most days?

If this passes, Maryland will be second only to Mass. in child support rates. It is unfortunate for you the child support agency is so pathetic to collect what is do you.

Posted by: Todd18 | March 28, 2010 5:04 PM | Report abuse

This is ridiculous. For one the Maryland guidelines are already too high as it is and don't take into account the fact that the mothers are usually the custodial guardians who get not only child support, which is tax free, the annual write offs on taxes (unless you can convince the custodial parent to agree to let the non custodial parent claim them on an 8332 form, which most if not all will not agree to), plus whatever daycare allowance get claimed by the custodial parent. Lastly, the custodial parents get modification increases every 3 years until the child is 18. And still get support if the child is in college until age 21 or if the child drops out of school. So basically, the custodial parent is getting not only Cost of Living, but are being well supplemented while the non custodial parent such as myself, who has been paying Court requested child support from day one and can barely get the time needed with their child(ren) now has to pay an additional 25% on top of what they've been paying already? I mean some of us can barely afford what the Maryland guidelines are as is in this economy without any of the tax benefits the custodial parent gets and now you'll make it worse on the non custodial parents financially and cause even more adversarial relationships as is. The Child Support system needs to be revamped to help the non custodial parents who are and who have done the right things financially and emotionally for their child(ren) instead of continually punishing them and lumping them with the deadbeats who don't, who haven't or who refuse to do anything on behalf of the seeds they drop.

Posted by: rmattocks | April 3, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

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