When parents split, the goal of the state is to ensure that their children do not suffer financially by not having both parents living together and contributing to the household. In order to accomplish that goal, any non-custodial parent (a parent whose children live with them less than 50% of the time) is required to pay child support to the custodial parent. The amount of support is determined by a set of statutory guidelines, based on the incomes of both parents.
Child Support Guidelines In Georgia
The first step in determining the correct amount of child support is to accurately calculate the total income of each parent. Income from all sources is counted, including salaries and bonuses, unemployment benefits, worker’s compensation payments, Social Security payments, investment income, income from self-employment, and work-related benefits such as housing allowances.
Once the total income of both parents has been calculated, the two incomes added together to determine the base amount of support, listed on a table found in the Georgia Code at O.C.G.A. § 19-6-15. The table lists the base amount of support at each income level for one, two, three, or more children. For a family with two children with a combined monthly income of $2,000 per month, the base amount of child support would be $624.00. The next step is to determine the relative percentages of the total family income that each parent contributes.
If the non-custodial parent contributes 80% of the total family income, for example, that parent would be responsible for 80% of the child support obligation, or about $499 per month. The non-custodial parent would be required to pay $499 per month to the custodial parent.
Imputing Income for your Child Support Payments
When it is determined that a parent is intentionally unemployed or underemployed, a court may impute income to that parent, based on the parent’s age, health, job skills, education, and ability to work. A court will also consider whether the parent owns substantial assets that are inconsistent with the amount of income reported by the parent. Income may not be imputed when the parent is actively pursuing education or job training that will ultimately benefit the children, or when the parent is caring for a disabled child or adult, or when the parent is disabled. The court will also consider whether a parent has been out of the workforce due to caring full-time for the children.
Whenever there is any dispute about the actual incomes of the parents, an experienced Columbus child support attorney can help.
Adjustments to Child Support Guidelines
Adjustments to a parent’s income, or to the amount of child support listed in the guidelines, may be made in certain circumstances, including:
- Self-employment taxes paid by a parent.
- Pre-existing child support orders actually being paid.
- Work-related child care expenses.
- Health insurance premiums and uninsured medical expenses for the children
- High income. If the combined monthly income of the parents exceeds $30,000 per month, the court may award support in excess of the amounts set forth in the guidelines.
- Low income. A parent may request a modification if he can prove that the amount of support required by the guidelines would present a severe economic hardship.
- Mortgage payments. If the non-custodial parent is paying rent or mortgage payments on the children’s residence, those payments may be considered.
- Alimony payments.
- Travel expenses for visitation.
- Life insurance premiums.
The Effect of Shared Custody On Child Support
If the parents share custody of the children, the amount of time spent with each parent will be considered in determining the amount of child support. If the parents’ combined income is $2,000 per month, as in the previous example, the parent who contributes 80% of the household income would owe $499 in support. If the children spend 50% of their time with that parent, however, the amount would be reduced by half. bringing the total amount owed to $250 per month.
For purposes of determining support, only the physical custody of the children is considered. The parents may share joint legal custody, meaning that they both decisions regarding medical care, education, and other matters for the children, but if one parent has sole physical custody, the amount of support determined by the guidelines will not be adjusted.
May A Georgia Child Support Order Be Modified?
Child support orders may always be modified if there is a substantial change in circumstances for either parent. A parent wishing to modify an existing child support order must file a petition to change the order and must prove the change in circumstances that warrants a modification, such as an illness or disability, change in job status, or a substantial change in income. Talk to a Columbus family law attorney if you believe your current child support order needs to be changed.
How Are Child Support Orders Enforced?
A parent who fails to keep up with court-ordered child support may be subject to different penalties.
- Garnishment. The Division of Child Support Enforcement or a court may order garnishment of the parent’s wages, unemployment or worker’s compensation benefits, or other payments.
- Liens on assets. A lien may be placed on the parent’s assets, including real estate and personal property.
- Seizure of government checks. State and federal income tax refunds may be seized.
- Criminal penalties. The parent may be found guilty of contempt of court and may be subject to fines or imprisonment.
- Attorney’s fees. The parent may be ordered to pay part of all of the attorney’s fees incurred by the other parent when attempting to collect child support.
Call A Columbus, Georgia Child Support Lawyer
Navigating the Georgia child support system can be complicated and stressful. A Columbus Family Law Attorney can help you determine the fair amount of support for your financial situation and can help collect support if the other parent refuses to pay.
If you are currently paying child support and believe the amount needs to be adjusted, a Columbus, Georgia child support attorney can help collect and present the evidence necessary to justify modification of the order. Call Moffitt Law, LLC today.