Today, Maryland is considering revising its mandatory child support guidelines for the first time in twenty-two years. When the child support guidelines became mandatory in 1988, it was based on a matrix developed to determine how much parents were expected to spend for their children's food, clothing, housing and so on, based on their combined income level. The idea was that the parents should bear a responsibility for the costs proportionate to their income and that children should not have to suffer a lower standard of living just because their parents were divorced or separated. To deal with expected changes in the economy, Maryland was supposed to review the guidelines every four years.
Fast forward 22 years later, the guidelines have not been revised once! This may be a result of the general perspective that such a change will just result in paying more child support. However, what opponents of this bill fail to appreciate is that with or without the revision, someone is paying for the ever-increasing expenses of raising children. The issue then is not about whether someone should be paying more towards their children’s expenses, but a matter of whether the matrix developed in 1988 and based on 1970’s data, is still valid in determining how much each parent should contribute to the cost of care. Simply put, the answer is “No”, the matrix is no longer valid. For instance, one can easily see that there has been a disproportionate increase in the cost of goods and services when compared to increases in income, which is not reflected in the outdated guidelines. The proposed bill will address this issue.
The proposed bill, which easily passed the state Senate today, must still be voted on by the House Judiciary Committee.