The costs of raising a child are consistently rising, making it nearly impossible for one parent to solely provide for the child financially. Both parents are legally obligated to support a child until he/she becomes an adult, and this obligation, while implied when parents are together, becomes an enforceable duty in the event of divorce or separation. Parents are usually more than willing to do what is necessary to provide for their child and understand child support is an important piece of this process. In the heat of divorce or child custody disputes, though, parents can lose sight of this goal, often due to not knowing what child support is based upon, or what it is intended to cover. However, learning about the formula courts use to calculate monthly child support can help to alleviate the animosity this issue can provoke, as well as help parents budget this money into their expense or income plans as they transition to being single and bringing in less money.
In many divorce situations where children are involved, the child custody and child support process can be quite lengthy
Several factors are considered in determining the amount of child support the non-custodial parent must pay. Records and statements that show the amount paid for medical, dental, and vision insurance, education and extracurricular activities, food, clothing, etc. all need to be provided to the court as well as proof of income for both parents to arrive at a child support amount.
How do Georgia courts calculate child support?
Before 2007, Georgia used to base child support on the non-custodial parent’s income. However, in more families, both parent’s income contributed to the family support, Georgia changed the basis of child support in 2007 to the gross income of both parents. Georgia now uses an “Income Shares Model” to calculate child support.
Basic Georgia Child Support Formula
Until 2007, child support was based solely on the income of the non-custodial parent and the number of children, which led to unbalanced obligations in some cases. To make the process more even-handed, the Georgia Legislature, falling in line with other states, changed the rules so that the income of both parents is used to calculate the monthly child support. Specifically, the courts will look at the parents’ total monthly gross income, which includes income from all sources, not just employment (such as rental income, unemployment, commission, and Social Security), and use that number, along with the number of children, to arrive at a presumptive amount of support the child needs from each parent every month to meet his/her needs. The percentage each parent is expected to contribute towards the monthly support amount is dependent upon income, with the parent earning more being required to contribute a greater amount, and thus likely to be the parent paying child support to the other.
What does the Shares Model Income include?
Judges will look at the last three years of both parent’s gross income before taxes from employers, self-employment, rental property income, commissions, bonuses, investment income, unemployment payments, and income from social security.
An average of each parent’s income is entered into a worksheet, which has a predetermined amount of expenses that the Georgia legislature estimated it would cost to care for and maintain each child per month. Childcare expenses are divided based on a pro-rata share of income. For example, if both parent’s average total gross income is $20,000 per month, and mom’s income is $8,000, and Dad’s income is $12,000, then dad’s pro-rated share of expenses would be 60% because he makes 60 % of the income.
Modifications of Child Support
Many non-custodial parents request to change the amount of their child support. Generally, the court will not consider an adjustment to the child support agreement until at least six months to one year has passed since the original contract.
Additionally, there need to be extenuating circumstances for the court to consider increasing or lowering a child support payment. Examples would be:
- A significant change in either parent’s income
- A change in medical insurance
- A shift in daycare costs or housing costs
- A child becoming no longer eligible for child support
- Permanent medical disability of either parent.
Additional Factors to calculating Georgia Child Support
While the numbers mentioned above are used to calculate the baseline child support amount, additional expenses frequently increase this monthly obligation. Childcare is a large and ongoing expense for parents with young children, and Georgia divides this cost between the parents according to the percentage of monthly income each earns. In addition, costs related to health insurance premiums, extraordinary medical expenses, education, and extracurricular activities, particularly if this cost is significant, can increase the monthly obligation above the standard amount.
Deviations from Georgia Guidelines
For the most part, child support awards follow the state guidelines, but there are situations in which a court may approve deviating from this amount. Generally, any time the best interests of the child would be served by increasing the child support award, the court is likely to order it. Additionally, though, special consideration is made and child support adjustments applied in the following circumstances:
- The non-custodial parent exercises substantial or equal amounts of parenting time;
- A parent has a notably high or low income;
- The parents live a considerable distance apart, requiring extensive travel for the child;
- The non-custodial parent pays the mortgage for the home where the custodial parent and child live; and
- The non-custodial parent has alimony obligations.
Get Legal Advice from a Georgia Child Support Lawyer
Child support is not something a divorced parent can avoid, and if you have questions about paying or receiving this support, talk to a family law attorney about your concerns. Moffitt Law, LLC know how crucial this money is to the child’s wellbeing, and will work to obtain a fair and appropriate result. Contact the Carrollton office for a free consultation.
Tyler Moffitt is a Family Law and Criminal Defense Attorney who practices Carrollton, LaGrange, and Columbus, GA. He graduated from John Marshall Law School, and has been practicing for several years now. Tyler Moffitt takes great honor in defending the accused. Learn more about his experience by clicking here.