Going through a divorce or family law case, and there are minor children involved? Then, more than likely you will have to be familiar with how child support is calculated. Child support is usually financial assistance, which is owed by parents to and for the benefit of a child. In the state of Georgia, it is the public policy of the state to require parents to provide adequate financial assistance for their minor children. The right to receive support payments can be waived. However, the Georgia Child Support Commission imposes strict guidelines regarding the calculation of support, as codified in O.C.G.A. § 19-6-53. Below you will find a brief introduction on how child support is calculated.
“Income Shares” Model
The state of Georgia can effectively resolve the issue of child support by using an “income shares” model under which both parents’ income is used to calculate child support. Under state’s guidelines, a child support worksheet is used to input both parents income to determine the appropriate child support amount. Calculating income and expenses paid towards childcare and support generates the amount in the worksheet. The worksheet also takes into account any other children outside of the marriage when calculating the available income.
When it comes to receiving support payments, the parent with the primary custody receives the payments from the non-custodial parent. It is presumed that the parent with the primary custody is likely to need a sufficient amount in child support to provide adequate care to the child.
How do I Calculate Primary Custody?
To calculate primary custody, count the number of nights each parent gets to keep the children for the year to determine which parent has more than fifty percent (50%). In many cases, this may come down to a mere difference of one night. The state requires the worksheet be turned into the judge before the judge can sign off on a settlement agreement or issue a final divorce decree.
What Qualifies as Income?
To calculate the income for the support of children in the State of Georgia, the Court looks at both parties’ total gross income before tax deductions. All income must be reported as failing to do so will constitute as fraud under the eyes of court.
Listed below is type of income that needs to be reported:
- Accrued Interest
- Income generated from investment properties
- Unemployment, pensions, retirement, and social security
What Expenses Does Child Support Cover?
The purpose of child support is to cover the necessary expenses that are incurred in the upbringing of the child. These necessary expenses include, but are not limited to: food, clothing, healthcare, etc. However, the state does not require support be paid after the child turns eighteen (18) years of age, unless or until, the child is still enrolled in high school after age eighteen (18). Thus, payments will not be paid to cover private school or college, but the parties may agree to pay for these expenses at their own discretion. After entering the income and expenses, the worksheet will generate a presumptive child support amount. This amount may then fluctuate based on additional variables.
Deviation in Child Support
Expenses may be seen as a deviation occurs when one of the parties agree to pay the extra expenses such as education expenses, extra curricular expenses, childcare expenses, or medical care expenses not covered by the insurance. Additionally, the parent that carries the children on their insurance policy will be allowed a deviation. Deviations are added to the Child Support Worksheet and will count towards each party’s mandated support amount. If deviations are entered, they must be found under the best interest of the children standard and must be documented via receipts or bank statements.
The more parenting time that is spent with the child, the more likely the court will allow that parent a downward deviation. The primary parent receiving support is not required to show the court how the support payments are being spent.
Modifying an Existing Agreement for Support
Modifications can be made to a support agreement under certain circumstances. A modification request can be made every two years and requires a “substantial change in circumstances.” A substantial change means a material event such a job loss or a large promotion. Generally, it will mean roughly a 25% increase or decrease in income. A modification may also be requested if one party does not exercise the amount of custody that was awarded. For example, if one parent is awarded 49% custody and only exercises 25% for the year, the primary parent ends up with the children for 75% of the year. The primary parent must bear that unanticipated cost of the extra time spent caring for the children and a modification of the support agreement would be appropriate.
Consequences of Not Paying Child Support
If support is not received in accordance with the court’s order, then you will be required to fill out an application with Child Support Services by contacting Georgia Department of Human Resources, Division of Child Support Services. https://services.georgia.gov/dhr/cspp/do/public/ApplyNow
With the assistance of Georgia Department of Human Resources, Division of Child Support Services, any custodial parent or caretaker of the child can collect child support from the parent who should contribute, but has not as of yet. In addition, both agencies will assist non-custodial parents who wish to initiate child support payments on their own.
The duty to support continues until the child:
- Reaches age of majority, which is eighteen (18) years of age.
- Marries or
Filling out the child support worksheet is generally a straightforward remedy. Deviations addition allows for some flexibility within the worksheet. It is advised to consult your attorney to assist you in filling out the child support worksheet to ensure that all credit is given for the expenses paid towards providing adequate care for the child.
If you are facing a child support case due to divorce, legitimation or modification, call us at 770-609-1247 to discuss your case with one of our experienced Alpharetta, Georgia divorce and child support attorneys.