Key House panel OKs child support plan

March 27, 2010|By Julie Bykowicz | julie.bykowicz@baltsun.com

A plan to revise the formulas that courts use to set child support amounts has cleared a key House of Delegates committee. Similar changes, which would mean higher payments for many noncustodial parents, have been approved by the Senate.

The Maryland General Assembly has taken action on child support guidelines for the first time in two decades.

The guidelines are used when divorcing or married parents cannot agree upon an amount. The state Department of Human Resources administers about 250,000 cases of child support, and its leader, Secretary Brenda Donald, has been advocating for new guidelines.

The proposed guidelines also, for the first time, would apply to families earning more than $120,000 per year.

Child support amounts in those cases are now set by judges. The House proposed raising that ceiling to $180,000. The Senate is seeking a ceiling of $360,000.

The House also wants to make the bill effective in October 2011 to give parents time to prepare and make the legislation prospective, meaning that parents who already have set child support payments cannot ask the court to change them based on the new guidelines.

The chambers must work out the differences before the legislative session ends April 12.

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