Child Support – Maryland Guidelines

Tannehill vs. Tannehill was a case decided by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals in 1991. This case discusses the use of the Maryland Guidelines for Child Support whether it is discretionary or mandatory used when calculating child support to the non-custodial parent.

The Maryland General Assembly adopted the Maryland Guidelines for Child Support. F.L. § 12-201- § 12-204. These guidelines were enacted according to the Child Support Enforcement Amendents of 1984, 42 U.S.C §§ 651-667 (1982 & Supp. II 1984), and federal regulations, 45 C.F.R. § 302.56 (1990). The Maryland Court of Special Appeals explained that there are several reasons for the guidelines. One thing, the guidelines are used to improve the court processes for determining child support. The second thing, they were to halt most of the low level child support awards with respect to the realistic cost of having children. Lastly, the Maryland guidelines were placed to increase the efficiency of the procedure for awards of child support. Furthermore, by not enacting such guidelines could have loss of federal aid of tens of millions for families who have children.

When originally enacted, the guidelines did not give rise to any presumption, but were advisory. The General Assembly amended the Maryland guidelines in 1991, in order to make their use mandatory. The child support is determined when using the guidelines that there is a presumption that it is correct which is now mandatory.

The guidelines show that the basis of support for the child is calculated pursuant to the schedule of minimal obligations for child support. The minimal support obligation is divided between the parents in proportion to the percentage to their income.

A reasonable determination of these provisions to having about 50 percent custody case would have several steps. One, the minimum support is calculated by itself for the number of children having custody with regards to each parent. Second, the child support amount a parent is required to pay the other is determined to multiply each parent’s share of income which is a percentage, by the number of the minimum support for the children to the custodial parent. Third and final, the parent owing the larger number for support would pay the other parent the difference between the two numbers without having to exchange the check between the two of them.

According to the guidelines for child support, there is a rebuttable presumption that the number calculated for child support is the accurate number for child support to be awarded to the custodial parent. § 12-202(a). However, the law also permits that the court does not have to follow the guidelines when the court rules that the use of the guidelines is inappropriate or unjust in a specific circumstance. § 12-202(a)(2)(iv).

Maryland General Assembly has required that departing from the Maryland child support guidelines is necessary where its use would be inappropriate or unjust. No item of considerations or factors could show every circumstance by which the use of the Maryland guidelines for child support would result in an inappropriate or unjust outcome. However, these factors show a strategic setup where a court may decide on a just child support award. For instance, the considerations include in § 12-202(a)(2)(iii) specific circumstances that affect the financial ability of the parents or the monetary needs of the children. To analyze this legislation so as to preclude other monetary factors that have the similar or same outcome as the factors shown above would be in opposition of the intent of the General Assembly to prevent inappropriate or unjust outcomes.

The court ruled that a departure is necessary; the court is required to make a finding in writing or a detailed finding on the record addressing the purposes for the departure. § 12-202(a)(2)(iv). Those rulings must address the number for child support that is mandatory under the guidelines. How the ruling deviates from the guidelines, and how the order is in the children’s best interest. § 12-202(a)(2)(iv).

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