Determining Child Support in State Courts

State Child Support Guidelines –

Every state court; just like each branch of the military service, has a different method of determining the appropriate amount of child support. In Maryland and D.C. (and all other states) child support is determined by a child support guideline based on the cost of living in each state.  That’s where the similarity ends. Maryland requires parents to pay support for their children until age 18 (or up to age 19 if the child is still a high school student), while D.C. requires child support to continue until age 22 if the child is in school full-time.

If you are a dependent of someone in the USMC, Air Force or Army and are seeking support, you would want to file for support in state court as soon as possible since the dependent support guidelines for these services are usually less than state child support guidelines.  Conversely, if you are in the Navy you would want to have the support case heard in state court as quickly as possible to avoid the more onerous support guidelines that the Navy imposes on its service members.  Remember, in all military services a state court order for support, or a separation agreement between the parties (even if it calls for no support) takes precedence over the military dependent support guidelines.

Determining a Service Member’s Income:

Each state has difference support guidelines and different methods for determining how much support is required. Typically, child support is determined based on each parents’ gross monthly income (income earned before deductions for taxes).  Tax exempt allowances, like BAH and BAS and even combat pay are included as part of a service members gross income for determining child support. However, the tax exempt allowances are calculated on the net amount received by the service member and not the total value of the allowance if the service member were required to pay taxes on his or her BAH or BAH. In other words, if the tax free housing allowance (BAH) is $2,100 per month the real value is $3,000 per month to someone paying 30% in taxes on these funds, but $2,100 would be added to the service member’s income (not $3,000).[1]

Veteran’s Administration disability pay or retired pay is also included as income.  Scholarships and housing allowances or car allowances are also considered income.  For example, if a service member receives a government housing unit the value of the government housing unit (the service member’s BAH) is included as income for determining child support even though the service member never actually receives the funds. Instead, he or she receives housing in lieu of the BAH.  If the service member is paying additional money for health insurance to cover his dependents than that additional sum is included in the child support guidelines and paid by the parties proportionate to their relative incomes (in Maryland). Most states divide the work-related day care costs between the parents based on their relative incomes.

If the daycare is $500 per month and mother earns 60% of the family's income and father earns 40% -- then mother would pay $300 per month and father would pay $200 per month towards the work related daycare. If one party is already paying the daycare costs, he or she would get credit for the expenditure. Child support would be reduced by the amount of the daycare expenses the other parent should be contributing based on the parties relative incomes.

In seeking child support, the sooner you file for support the sooner get to court and obtain an award.  But, the support award is usually applied retroactively to the date that the petition for support was filed.  If you file a petition or complaint for support on July 1, and the case does not get to trial until December 1, the court will begin calculating child support as of the date of the filing (July 1).  At the trial, if the respondent has not paid any support during that period, he or she would already owe five months of back child support (child support arrears). The court would ordinarily require the Respondent to pay an additional 10 to 25% per month in addition to child support to pay off any child support arrears.

[1]  Be advised that each state may have different rules on including non-taxable allowances as income for determining child support or spousal support.