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Child Support in Georgia

The Georgia Child Support Commission issues the guidelines regarding child support. The guidelines at codified in O.C.G.A. § 19-6-53. The State of Georgia resolves the issue of child support by using an “income shares” model. This means both parents’ incomes are used to determine child support. The state guidelines mandate the universal use of a child support worksheet to input the income of both parents in order to determine the appropriate amount of child support. The worksheet generates an amount based on income and expenses paid towards caring for the children. The parent that has primary custody receives the child support payment from the other parent. Primary custody is calculated by counting the number of nights that each parent has the children for the year to determine which parent has more than 50% of the time. 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?

Income, for the purposes of the child support worksheet, is both parties’ total gross income before tax deductions. Income includes, not only salaries, but also bonuses, commissions, accrued interest, income from investment properties, unemployment, pensions and retirement, and social security. All income must be reported. Failing to do so will be considered fraud by the court.

The worksheet will also take into account any other children outside of the marriage when calculating the available income. If there are other children in the household that one party of which one party has primary custody from another marriage or if one party pays child support for children from another marriage, this will be factored against the party’s gross income.

What Expenses Does Child Support Cover?

Child support is typically calculated to cover the basic needs of the child such as food, clothing, healthcare, etc. The state will not require that child support be paid to cover private school or college but the parties may agree to pay for these expenses. After entering the income and expenses, the worksheet will generate a presumptive child support amount. This amount may then fluctuate based on additional variables.
When one party agrees to pay for extra expenses such as additional education, extra curricular activities, childcare, or medical care not covered by insurance, the court will view this extra expense as a “deviation”. Additionally, the parent that carries the children on their insurance policy will be allowed a deviation. All deviations are added to the worksheet and will count toward each party’s mandated child support amount. Any deviations entered must be found to be in the best interest of the children and all deviations must be documented via receipts or bank statements. A parent may choose to stipulate a cap on the amount that he or she is willing to pay towards deviations. Anything in excess of the cap, must then be paid by the primary parent. Child support is paid until the last child turns eighteen.
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 child support is not required to show the court how the child support payments are being spent.

Modifying an Existing Child Support Agreement

Modifications can be made to a child 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.

Conclusion

The child support worksheet is generally a straight-forward remedy for calculating child support payments. The addition of deviations allows for some flexibility within the worksheet. Your attorney is best equipped to assist in filling in the child support worksheet to ensure you get credit for all expenses paid towards the care of your child.

If you are facing divorce or a family law case and have questions about child support in Georgia, call us at 770-609-1247 to speak with one of our experienced and caring Georgia divorce and family law attorneys.

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