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Child Support: The Basics Versus The Extras

When parents of minor children live in separate households, providing for children’s financial needs can become especially challenging.  Occasionally, the press reports on studies that calculate the financial cost of raising a child until legal adulthood, and to most of us, the number of dollars is enormous.  Still, children need to be fed, clothed, sheltered, and cared for when parents are at work.  The basic health insurance needs of children must also be addressed. When evaluating the affordability of child support, it helps to understand the difference between what we want and what we need.  For legal purposes, child support is designed to cover the basic needs of children and, as a general rule, the law holds both mothers and fathers legally accountable for the financial support of their children.  For most people, the amount of child support will be calculated according to a formula established in the law.  This formula divides the obligation of child support in proportion to each parent’s income, allowing for variations that depend on the circumstances of the particular family.  For example, as one would intuit, the amount of child support that is appropriate for two children will differ from the amount for six children.  Similarly, the appropriate amount of child support will differ according to the actual residential time spent by the child in each parent’s home as well as the total amount of income generated by the family. Child support is not generally intended to cover expenses for extracurricular activities such as sports teams or dance lessons (nor will child support be ordered by a Maryland court to cover college tuition or...

Notes From Annapolis: Victory For Consenting Adults in Divorce Cases

The 2015 session of the Maryland General Assembly ended with the enrollment of a bill that will soon generate a quiet revolution in the practice of family law. Governor Hogan has not officially signed it, but HB 472 (Family Law-Grounds for Divorce-Mutual Consent) is likely to be approved and go into effect on October 1, 2015. HB 472 authorizes a court to decree an absolute (i.e. final) divorce on the ground of mutual consent.  In order to use the ground of mutual consent, spouses cannot have any minor child in common and must execute and submit to the court a written settlement agreement that is signed by both parties. This agreement must resolve all issues related to alimony and the distribution of property, and neither party may file a pleading to set aside the agreement. Additionally, both parties are also required to appear before the court at the absolute divorce hearing. HB 472 significantly eases the requirements for a no-fault divorce in Maryland.  Under our current law, spouses are required to live in two different homes and refrain from any sexual relationship for a minimum of one year before they are entitled to file for an absolute divorce.  HB 472 eliminates these requirement for couples without minor children in common. However, it does require these couples to sign a written settlement agreement that addresses money issues that relate to marriage, such as alimony and property.  If divorcing couples can accomplish this task, then they can promptly move forward and resume their status as single individuals without the expense of moving to a new home or dealing with the intrusive...