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Does Child Support count as Income?

patrickcrawford | July 19, 2023

If you have just gotten a divorce or are about to get divorced, you probably have questions about child support. If you are currently receiving child support from your former spouse, you may be wondering if the payment counts toward your own income.

The Law Office of Patrick Crawford has helped many divorced couples navigate the ins and outs of child support. Below, we discuss the impact child support will have on your taxes and various disability benefits.


What is Child Support?

Even after two people have divorced, parents still have a legal obligation to their children. Child support is meant to cover a child’s basic needs, such as clothing, shelter, food, and health expenses.

Child support is a court-ordered amount paid by the parent who does not have custody to the custodial parent (the parent that resides with the child). Child support is usually paid in monthly installments.

The court usually gets involved in determining an appropriate support amount unless the parents have established child support in their marital separation agreement or as part of the divorce judgment.


Child Support and Taxes

A parent receiving child support does not need to include it as taxable income on their tax return. This means that the receiving parent should not include support payments as part of their gross payment or Earned Income Tax Credit.

On the flip side, a parent paying child support will be unable to claim it as a deduction. This is because child support is considered a “tax-neutral” event.

The Internal Revenue Service classifies child support as a personal expense since you would be making those purchases if you were living with your child. Instead of making the payments yourself, you need to give the money to your ex-spouse in order to provide for your child.


How is Child Support Calculated?

Each state uses its own formula to determine child support obligations. Maryland uses the “Income Shares Model,” which calculates how much each parent would spend on a child if they were not divorced.

The most important factors are:

  • Each parent’s “actual monthly income” – Actual income includes salary or wages, but other types of income may be included, like Social Security benefits (i.e., SSDI) and workers’ compensation. Government assistance programs that are based on need are not included in this calculation, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), food stamps (i.e., SNAP), and temporary cash assistance.
  • Each parent’s “adjusted actual income” – Adjusted actual income is a parent’s actual income minus any child support that the parent may pay for another child and/or alimony.
  • Work-related child care expenses – This can include costs for daycare or before and after care while a parent is at work.
  • Health insurance expenses -This includes the health insurance premium and any related costs, including copayments and deductibles.
  • Extraordinary medical expenses – This includes reasonable expenses that are not covered by insurance, such as physical therapy or orthodontist visits.
  • Financial statements – the parent who is requesting support must submit a financial statement showing financial need. The receiving parent commits perjury if he or she lies on the report.


Child Support Calculator

A great advantage is the child support calculator for Maryland that the Department of Human Services offers online. This tool will help you estimate the amount of child support that might be determined for your case.


Voluntary Impoverishment and Imputed Income

A person who does not work an adequate number of hours in order to afford child support is making themself impoverished on purpose, known as voluntary impoverishment.

If the court decides that a parent has made themselves poor on purpose, not based on factors that were outside their control, then a judge will base the parent’s child support payment on “imputed” income.

When the court imputes income, they will calculate a parent’s support payment as if they have income. The following factors are considered:

  • the parent’s age;
  • the parent’s physical and behavioral condition
  • the parent’s educational level;
  • any special training or skills;
  • occupational qualifications and skills, employment and earnings history, a record of efforts to obtain and retain employment, and criminal record and other employer barriers;
  • employment opportunities in the parent’s community, including the status of the job market, prevailing earning levels, and the availability of employers willing to hire the parent;
  • the parent’s assets;
  • the parent’s actual income from all sources; and
  • any other factor that impacts the parent’s ability to obtain funds for child support.

Based on a parent’s past work experience, the court may research the average salary of a person within that industry. The court may use data compiled by The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to determine wage estimates for a particular occupation in each state.


Woman doing calculations on paper and PC


Child Support Guidelines

Maryland Child Support Guidelines are based on the following steps in order to estimate a child support amount:

  1. Calculate each parent’s actual income.
  2. Calculate each parent’s adjusted actual income or imputed income.
  3. Add up both parents adjusted actual incomes or their imputed incomes.
  4. Factor in some additional expenses, including health insurance costs, daycare costs, and extraordinary medical expenses, while still ensuring that the parent paying child support maintains a minimum amount of monthly income.
  5. The non-custodial parent is responsible for paying a percentage of the total child support obligation.


Are There Exceptions to Child Support Guidelines?

The guidelines described above are used in determining child support payments in most cases. Up until July 1st, 2022, if a family earned a combined monthly income of more than $15,000, the court could decide the child support obligation at their own discretion.

However, the Maryland legislature enacted a new law as of July 1st, 2022, which altered the Child Support Guidelines.

According to the new law, the discretionary amount has been altered from $15,000 or more to $30,000 or more for a family’s combined monthly income.

According to the new law, for a family that has a combined monthly income of up to $30,000, the non-custodial parent would pay $3,163 in basic child support.


What if I Am Behind on my Support Payments?

Being behind in your child support order is known as being in arrears. If you are behind by at least $150, and the back support owed is greater than or equal to two times your monthly support obligation, your state tax refund can be offset.

If you are behind by $500 or more in support payments, and the amount owed is greater than or equal to two times your monthly support obligation, then your federal tax refund can be offset to cover the amount owed.


Do I Still Have to Pay Child Support if I am Receiving Public Assistance?

It depends on what type of public assistance you are receiving. If you are a non-custodial parent receiving social security disability benefits (SSDI), your SSDI payment is considered income in terms of calculating child support.

If you receive SSDI, an allotment will be taken out of your SSDI payment to cover child support. The same would hold true if you had a court order to pay alimony.

However, if you are receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI), then this is not considered as part of your “actual monthly income” since it is a means-tested public assistance program. This amount will not be included in determining a child support order.


Will Child Support Affect My Child’s Disability Benefits?

If your child is blind or disabled, he or she may be eligible to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Child support is considered a countable asset in determining eligibility benefits. However, one-third of monthly support payments are excluded from determining a child’s SSI benefits.


Child Support and TANF Benefits

Besides support payments being included as income in calculating SSI benefits, it is also included as income for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). TANF is a state-managed program that helps low-income families with children achieve economic stability.

Applying for child support is a requirement for TANF eligibility. When applying for TANF benefits, be sure to include a child support amount only when requested. Including a child support amount as part of your gross income will skew your application since it will appear that you make more money than you actually do.

Families who end up receiving TANF benefits are required to assign their child support payments to the state. This is done as a direct way of reimbursing the government for welfare assistance.


Will Child Support Be Reduced if My Child is Receiving SSDI Derivative Benefits?

If a person is receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), then certain family members may qualify for derivative benefits. These family members include a divorced spouse, current spouse, children, and an adult child that became disabled before age 22.

Derivative Benefits count as income from the parent in which the benefits come from. If your child is receiving SSDI derivative benefits from the non-custodial parent, then the benefit amount will be taken out of the parent’s child support obligation.

There is a caveat: if the derivative benefits exceed the child support order, then the paying parent will not be responsible for paying child support.


An Annapolis Child Support Attorney Working for You

Child support can be a contentious topic. While you want your child to be well-provided for, you also have your own needs to keep in mind. Whether you or paying or receiving support, you need a child support attorney who is looking out for your child’s best interest. Contact us today at the Law Office of Patrick Crawford | Annapolis Family Law & Divorce Attorney to schedule your consultation.

Patrick Crawford

Patrick is an Annapolis Family Lawyer dedicated to helping you through the most complex and emotional family law matters. During his career, Patrick has successfully represented countless people in divorce, child custody, child support, domestic violence and other family law cases of diverse complexity.

Years of experience: 20+ years.
Maryland Registration Status: Active and authorized to practice law.

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This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by attorney Patrick Crawford, who has more than 16 years of legal experience practicing family law.