In Maryland, child support can be modified when there is a material change in circumstances relating either to the parent’s income and/or expenses for the child (daycare, medical insurance, extraordinary medical expenses, private school, etc.).
Even when there is a material change in circumstances, the court has the discretion not to modify child support when it is not in the child’s best interest. Smith v. Freeman, 149 Md.App. 1, 20-21 (2002) (“a material change in circumstances does not necessarily compel a modification. Rather, a decision regarding modification is left to the sound discretion of the trial court, so long as the discretion was not arbitrarily used or based on incorrect legal principles”).
The August 7, 2019 unreported appellate case of Douglas Moore v. Bibi Khan illustrates that not every material change in circumstances warrants a modification of child support. Mr. Moore had agreed to pay $15,000 per month in child support, which included a $7,000 per month expense for a live-in nanny. After the child enrolled in preschool, Mr. Moore moved to modify child support on the grounds that the mother no longer needed a $7,000 per month live-in nanny.
The trial court found and the appellate court affirmed that the child’s enrollment in preschool did not constitute a material change in circumstances. While the nanny’s job requirements were greatly diminished when the child was at preschool, the need for a nanny still existed. Moreover, it was the mother’s exclusive decision to maintain the same full-time nanny for the sake of consistency for the child in lieu of hiring one or more part-time nannies.
Practice pointer for clients: When it is anticipated that the cost of daycare will change when the child enrolls in preschool or school, the parties’ parenting agreement should specify that the reduction in daycare costs constitutes a material change in circumstances and that the parties agree to recalculate child support.
As for Mr. Moore, his parenting agreement should have stated his child support obligation for a full time nanny would be reduced by a pro rata amount when the child enrolled in preschool.