How to Calculate Child Support in Maryland

Learn how to calculate child support in Maryland, when the amount of support may be different than what’s calculated under the state’s guidelines, and how to apply for, collect, and modify child support.

By , Attorney · UC Law San Francisco

Maryland has child support guidelines that parents and judges use to calculate the right amount of support in a particular case. The guidelines are based on the principle that every parent has a duty to support their child financially.

How to Calculate Child Support Under Maryland's Child Support Guidelines

To calculate the amount of support under Maryland's current child support guidelines, you can use the official Maryland Child Support Calculator.

Maryland's guidelines take into account many factors, including:

  • both parents' income
  • the physical custody arrangement (primary or shared)
  • the number of children who need to be supported
  • health care and insurance expenses for the children
  • work-related child care expenses, and
  • preexisting child support and alimony payments.

Learn more about child support in Maryland, including what gets counted as income when calculating support.

(Md. Code, Fam. Law §§ 12-201, 12-204 (2024).)

Are Other Child Support Calculators Accurate?

Watch out for websites with so-called child support calculators for Maryland. Unfortunately, there's no guarantee that these calculators are accurate and up-to-date. Maryland updates its child support guidelines regularly, and you usually can't tell whether any of these websites have kept up with the latest changes.

It's best to stick with the official state calculator to get the most accurate amount of child support you may pay or receive. Be aware, however, that this will be an estimate. As explained below, the judge may order a different amount in your case. And, of course, the accuracy of any child support calculation will also depend on the accuracy of the information you provide.

When Child Support May Be Different than the Formula Calculation

Maryland judges must order the amount of support calculated by the formula unless ordering it would be unjust or inappropriate in a particular case.

When considering whether the guideline amount is the right amount of support, judges may consider:

  • marital debt
  • who is living in and paying for the marital home
  • college expenses
  • existing separation or property settlement agreements
  • other children either parent has to support, and
  • whether the parent who owes support will fall below the poverty line.

If a judge deviates from the guideline amount the judge must explain how the change serves the best interest of the child.

(Md. Code, Fam. Law §§ 12-202 (2024).)

How to Apply for Child Support in Maryland

If you're filing for divorce in Maryland, you can request child support as part of that process. You can—and parents often do you—agree on an amount of child support as part of a divorce settlement. You'll have to submit your agreement for a judge to approve. If you agree to an amount that is different than the guideline calculation, be sure to explain your reasons for the deviation. If you can't agree on an amount of support, a judge will decide for you.

You can initiate a child support case on your own or apply for support through the Maryland Department of Human Services - Child Support Administration (CSA). If you aren't married to your child's other parent, CSA can help you establish paternity and then apply for support.

How to Collect Child Support in Maryland

You can collect child support directly from the other parent or CSA can process payments for you. You may also ask a judge for an earnings withholding order (EWO). An EWO is a court order that requires the paying parent's employer to take the support payment directly from that parent's paycheck.

If you're still having trouble collecting support payments, CSA can help you enforce the child support orders. The agency has many enforcement tools to collect support, including:

(Md. Code, Fam. Law §§ 10-121, 10-122, 10-123 (2024).)

How to Change the Amount of Child Support

You can ask a judge to change a child support order by filing a petition to modify child support. You might ask a judge for a modification if circumstances have changed since your last order, such as:

  • you've lost your job or your income has decreased
  • the other parent's income has increased
  • your work-related child care costs have increased
  • your custody arrangement has changed, or
  • your family size has changed.

You have a right to ask CSA to review your support order once every three years or if there has been a change in circumstances since your last order.

(Md. Code, Fam. Law §§ 12-202 (2024).)

Getting Help With Child Support

Calculating child support is complicated. Most courts in Maryland have Family Court Help Centers where you can get free legal help with family law cases, including child support and child custody. The Maryland Courts also offer a Guide and File tool to help you complete court forms online.

If you and your co-parent can't agree on child custody, support, or both, you might need a lawyer's help. An experienced lawyer can answer your questions, help you negotiate an agreement that works for you and your child, and advocate for you in court if it comes to that.

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