Eliminating the Cliff: Maryland's New Child Support Guidelines

One of the factors considered when determining how much child support one parent should pay the other is the number of overnights the child spends with each parent.  Before October 1, 2020, if a child spent less 35% of the overnights (or 128 overnights per year) with one parent, then the other parent was considered to have “sole physical custody.”  It was only once a parent hit that 128 overnight threshold that he or she was considered to have “shared physical custody” of the child.  This 128 overnight threshold was often referred to as a “cliff” because the amount of child support decreased significantly between 127 and 128 overnights.

The shared child support guidelines require, in most circumstances, a specific amount of child support based on the parties’ incomes and the payment of certain expenses for the child.  In an effort to eliminate “the cliff,” a new statute took effect on October 1, 2020, which lowers the shared physical custody threshold from 35% (or 128 overnights) to 25% of the overnights (or 92 overnights) per year.  It uses a new formula to determine the amount of child support when one parent has between 92 and 110 overnights.  However, when each parent has more than 110 overnights, the shared physical custody guidelines will still be used, but the amounts of child support will be adjusted for each overnight above 110.  These new guidelines only apply to cases filed on or after October 1, 2020, and will not automatically change child support for those with existing orders.

If you have questions about these or other family law issues, please contact Kerianne Kemmerzell, Ferrier Stillman, chair, or any member of the family law group. The firm has offices in Baltimore and in Towson.