In creating and using the Maryland Child Support Guidelines, the state tied the calculation of child support together with child custody. What type of custody you have, and how often you see your child, can factor into how much money you pay or get in child support in Maryland.
The first thing to do in calculating child support is to figure out what type of child custody you have with the other party. The Maryland Child Support Guidelines look specifically at the type of physical child custody the parents have. Parents can either have primary physical custody or joint/shared physical custody. Once that has been established, child support can be calculated.
The Maryland Child Support Guidelines provide two different ways to run the calculations. If the parents are found to have joint/shared physical child custody, the amount of child support the non-custodial parent pays will be lower. If one parent has primary physical child custody, the amount of support paid is higher.
The reason for this difference in child support is because if one parent has primary physical child custody, it makes them the custodial parent (Parent A). This means the child spends most of their time with them. The custodial parent is therefore usually the parent that has to pay for everything. If one parent has primary physical child custody, the non-custodial parent (Parent B) would have to balance this out by paying more money.
It may not matter what you call your type of child custody either. The courts in Maryland will look beyond that. One way the court decides whether the parents already have either joint/shared or primary physical custody is by what they have been doing in their daily lives already. This is what we call the Magic 128.
In order to figure out which calculation to use, a Maryland court looks at the amount of time the child spends with each parent. If no formal child custody determination has been made, the court will look at the visitation schedule being used by the parents. If the child is spending 128 overnights with the non-custodial parent (Parent B) then the court will use the joint/shared physical child custody calculation. However, if the court finds that the child is not spending at least 128 overnights with Parent B, then the court will use the primary physical child custody calculation, which will make Parent B’s child support payments higher.
128 overnights is a little more than one-third of the calendar year, which is why this number is magical. If your child spends at least one-third the year with each parent, the courts in Maryland will say you have joint or shared child custody, regardless of what you call it. If they don’t quite spend that much time, they will call one parent the custodial parent and the other will be non-custodial and have a higher child support payment.
For all of the factors, and the various ways this can play out in court, you should talk to a Maryland child custody or child support lawyer. Each case is different, just as each family is different. Something that might seem normal to you may seem like a disputed issue for the court. A lawyer can really help you understand what the court sees as red flags, and what they are likely to do with them.