Separation is often harder on children than it is on parents. Child custody and support laws aim to minimize the impact of separation on children by ensuring that both parents will continue to be a part of their children’s lives and contribute to their financial support. Child support laws are similar throughout the United States, but each state’s laws are unique in some respects. Do not assume that general information in articles found on the internet will apply to your Georgia child support case. Contact an experienced LaGrange, Georgia child support lawyer if you have any questions about child support in the state of Georgia.
How Much Child Support Appropriate Per Person in Georgia?
The appropriate amount of child support is different for each family and depends on the income of the parents. Georgia’s child support guidelines can be found in the Georgia Civil Code, and are designed to ensure that children can continue to enjoy the same standard of living after a separation as they had when the family was intact.
The first step in determining the appropriate amount of child support is to calculate the total income of the parents. Total income will include:
- Wages and bonuses
- Self-employment income
- Investment income’
- Worker’s compensation benefits
- Unemployment benefits
- Social Security payments
Some expenses cause deductions from a parent’s income, such as support payments for other children, children’s health insurance premiums, and work-related child care expenses.
A parent may not escape a child support obligation by choosing not to work. When a parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, a court can impute income to that parent, meaning that the court can base the parent’s support obligation on the amount he/she could reasonably earn based on age, education, health, and employment history. A parent who is unemployed while caring for small children may avoid having income imputed, especially if the parent has been out of the workforce for a significant period while caring for children. Unemployment might also be deemed reasonable if a parent is caring for a disabled child or adult.
Georgia Child Support Guidelines
The Georgia civil code contains a table of child support obligations based on the incomes of the parents and the number of children in the household. The table lists the total child support obligation for both parents at each level of income. The child support table for a family with a combined monthly income of $3,000 per month looks like this:
|Combined Adjusted Income||One Child||Two Children||Three Children||Four Children||Five Children||Six Children|
If the non-custodial parent contributes 100% of the family’s income, that parent would pay $620 per month to the custodial parent. If both parents contribute half of the family’s income ($1,500 per month from each), the non-custodial parent would pay $310 per month.
Shared Child Custody in Georgia
The state of Georgia recognizes two types of custody: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody determines which parent has the right to make legal, medical, and educational decisions on behalf of the children. Legal custody does not affect child support unless one parent is paying for health insurance or medical expenses for the children.
Physical custody determines where the children live. In a sole custody arrangement, the children live with one parent, and the other parent may have visitation rights. In a shared custody arrangement, the children spend a significant portion of their time with each parent.
Shared custody arrangements will affect child support obligations. In the example of the $3,000 per month income family, for example, the non-custodial parent’s child support obligation decreases by the percentage of time the children live with that parent. In a 50/50 shared custody arrangement, the obligation would be reduced to $155 per month.
How Can A Child Support Order Be Changed?
Child support orders in Georgia may always be modified if circumstances have changed. Changes in circumstances may include:
- Loss of a job
- A significant change in employment status
- A large raise or increase in income
- Health problems
- The birth of another child
Talk to a LaGrange, Georgia family law attorney if you believe the amount you are paying or receiving for child support needs to be changed.
Child Support Enforcement In Georgia
Parents who refuse to pay court-ordered child support may face a number of penalties.
- Wages can be garnished.
- Liens may be placed on real estate and personal property.
- State and federal income tax refund checks may be intercepted.
- Driver’s licenses and professional licenses may be suspended.
- Fines or jail time may be imposed.
Child support orders from other states are enforceable in Georgia, and child support orders issued by a court in Georgia can be enforced in every other state. Parents who cannot be found may be located through the Federal Parent Locator Service.
When Do You Need An Attorney?
You should call a LaGrange, Georgia child support attorney when:
- You have any questions about how much child support you should pay or should receive.
- You believe the amount of child support you are paying or receiving is unfair.
- You believe your child’s other parent is misrepresenting or hiding income.
- You are having problems collecting child support.
- You cannot locate the person who owes you child support.
- Circumstances have changed in your life, and you can no longer afford to pay your child support.
If you are worried about the cost of hiring an attorney, there are some circumstances in which the other parent may be ordered to pay some or all of your legal expenses. Talk to an experienced Georgia child support attorney and learn your options.