October 1, 2020 brought a new law in Maryland will change the way child support is calculated for families in which the child or children spend ninety-two or more overnights per year with each parent. Pursuant to the prior law, a child had to reside with the non-primary custodial parent for at least 128 overnights per year (or 35% of the year) for the schedule to be considered a “shared” custody schedule for purposes of calculating child support. This framework, in practical application, meant that a parent who had his or her child for 127 or fewer overnights (meaning that the other parent had “sole” or “primary” physical custody) would owe substantially more child support than a parent who had his or her child for 128 or more overnights (a “shared” physical custody arrangement), even though the expenses a parent incurs while providing care for a child for 127 overnights or 128 overnights are approximately the same.
The new law creates a tiered approach. When the parent has the child or children for 91 or fewer overnights, it is considered a “sole” physical custody schedule for purposes of calculating child support. This is the first tier. When a parent has the child or children for 92 to 109 overnights (25% to 30% of the year), a “shared physical custody adjustment” applies, which serves to increase that parents’ child support obligation incrementally based upon the number of overnights the child or children reside with that parent. This is the second tier. The third tier includes schedules where both parents have the child or children for 110 or more overnights.
The new law only applies to cases filed after October 1, 2020. An attorney will be able to advise parents as to whether it makes sense to seek a modification of child support in their case based on this new law. It is possible that the “shared physical custody adjustment” might result in calculating an alternate amount of child support, which can be negotiated with the other parent or awarded after filing a case with the court. It is important to note that the number of overnights the child or children spend with each parent is only one factor considered in calculating child support. Each parents’ income and the child’s expenses are also considered.
For questions about this article, or any other Family Law matter, please contact an attorney in our Family Law practice area.