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Do you have a child support matter that is above the guidelines? A case to consider

Voishan remains precedent in “above-the-guidelines” cases.

  • Voishan v. Palma, 327 Md. 318 (1992).

In Voishan, the Court of Appeals addressed a mother’s Motion to Modify Child Support.  The trial court granted the mother’s motion and ordered the father to double the amount of support he was paying for the parties’ only minor child.  Evidence was presented in support of the motion for modification which revealed that the father was earning $145,000 per year and the mother was earning $30,000 per year.  The combined adjusted actual income of the parties was therefore $175,000 a year or $14,583 per month.  At the time, the Maryland Child Support Guidelines established through Md. Family Law Code Ann. § 12-204(e) only set guidelines for a combined adjusted actual income of $10,000 per month.  In order to address cases, such as this, where the parties monthly income exceeded the guidelines, the legislature provided trial court’s with the discretion to set the amount of child support under Md. Family Law Code Ann. § 12-204(d).

The Court of Appeals addressed contentions made by the father that the legislature intended to cap the child support obligation at the $10,000 guideline ceiling by concluding that had the legislature intended this, it would have stated so in the statute and it would not have granted such discretion to the trial courts.  Further, the COA stated that employing a ceiling on child support obligations would self-defeat the policy of the guidelines to allow a child to enjoy the “standard of living consonant with that he or she would have experienced had the parents remained married.”  The Court of Appeals also provided guidance for future decisions in above guidelines cases by establishing that although the guidelines set out in § 12-204(e) may not apply, “the general principles from which the schedule was derived should not be ignored” and that “trial judges should bear in mind the guidelines’ underlying principles when deciding matters within their discretion.”  Further, it was concluded that the child support obligation shall be shared between the parents in proportion to their adjusted actual income because this principle underlies the Income Shares Model that Maryland employs as its basis for child support.  The Court of Appeals also stated that “the trial judge should examine the needs of the child in light of the parents’ resources and determine the amount of support necessary to ensure that the child’s standard of living does not suffer because of the parents’ separation.”  Ultimately, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s modification of the father’s child support obligation.

For more information on Maryland divorce and child support matters contact an experienced divorce attorney.