How is child support calculated?
Calculations of child support can be complicated by factors such as a special arrangement for child custody that may already be in place, a child with special needs, negotiations that could be underway for a high net worth divorce or if a spouse’s income is difficult to determine. No matter where the child support phase of your divorce leads us, you can count on Banks, Stubbs & McFarland attorneys to offer wise counsel, solid recommendations and client focus that give you peace of mind.
In Georgia, child support obligations are determined via the “income-sharing” methodology. This methodology takes into account the mother’s and father’s joint incomes to establish the monthly payment obligation of the non-custodial spouse. Courts will look at all forms of income, including: interest, salary, unemployment benefits, social security and disability payments, workers’ compensation benefits, commissions, tips and other kinds of income. It will then use a special child support calculator and consider other factors to decide the amount of monthly support payments owed.
Whether you are being asked to pay child support or need to receive child support, you may want to consult with a qualified family law attorney in order to ensure that your rights are being preserved in your child support proceedings. An attorney will review the unique situations of the parents and their children and advocate for the best interests of the child and parent being represented.
Can a court deviate from child support guidelines in Georgia?
Like most states, Georgia uses a formula that takes into account the income of both parents and divides the cost of child-raising to determine a so-called ‘guideline’ amount. For reasons of consistency and objectivity, this is the amount that is presumed to be fair for the non-custodial parent to pay to the custodial parent. However, the law makes some room for adjustment of this amount if the either parent can show evidence rebutting this presumption.
Georgia Code Section 19-6-15 covers the calculation process and also describes how deviations from the guidelines work, and gives examples of specific deviations that might be allowable. While the list is not exhaustive, it gives one an idea of the kind of evidence that may be necessary to rebut the presumptive guideline amount and get a different amount ordered.
First among these specific deviations are extremes of income amongst the parents. The guidelines were created for the average situation and very high or very low incomes may need some adjustment. The cost of health or life insurance policies that benefit the child may also be used as a deviation. A factfinder may deviate from the guidelines to allow for the receipt of a child tax credit, or the travel expenses of a parent following a court-ordered visitation schedule. Actual alimony paid may be the basis for a deviation. If the non-custodial parent pays the mortgage on the children’s residence, or provides it to the custodial parent at no cost, deviation may be allowed. A court may also deviate from guidelines if the child is in the foster care system and the non-custodial parent is attempting to get the children back by setting up a household according to a permanency plan. Extraordinary expenses for the child, such as abnormal medical or educational expenses may be a basis for deviation, as may be an unusual parenting time arrangement.
Of course, there may also be non-specific reasons not included above that can create the basis for a guideline deviation. The main thing to remember is the court or jury must normally make written findings supporting the deviation, and must always do so with the best interest of the child in mind. Deviations are not easy to procure, and if you have questions about child support in Georgia, you may wish to consider consulting an experienced family attorney.
Are Georgia’s child support guidelines set in stone?
When they hear that Georgia courts use a formula set out in the child support guidelines to determine the amount of child support, many people assume that what the amount will be is set in stone. Everyone, attorneys included, must defer to the guidelines, as they are part of the law of the state. However, how the formula is used, and whether or not there can be deviation from it, vary from case to case.
For example, what if one parent is paying for an expensive private school — does that get taken into account in calculating the amount of child support? Also, maybe there’s an unconventional custody or visitation arrangement that affects the amount of time and money that is spent by each parent with and on the child.
The above are all things that may, or may not change the way the guidelines calculate the amount of child support owed. Furthermore, there are several specific reasons set out in Georgia statutes, and other possible reasons not explicitly stated, that a court might change the amount from that in the guidelines. To effectively argue for such a deviation, it is helpful to know both the statutes and how courts tend to interpret them.
Also, it is important to remember that just because a court has ordered child support, the case may not be over. Perhaps the other parent has not paid, and some kind of enforcement action is necessary. Or there has been a change in circumstances that may require a modification on the original order. These are areas in which our lawyers may be able to give you insight.
What is an “Income Withholding Order” in Georgia child support?
Georgia, like most states, has declared that it is the state’s public policy that children be supported financially by both of their parents. This means that parents are financially responsible for their children, whether those offspring are the result of a decades-long marriage or a one-time meeting. Previous posts here have discussed some of the basics of child support in Georgia, such as the basic income-based guidelines used to calculate a party’s support responsibility, and some of the ways that custodial parents can enforce support orders that have not been complied with.
One of the best ways to deal with enforcing a support order is to attempt to make certain that payments are made on a regular basis. One of the ways to do this in Georgia is through what is termed an “Income Withholding Order.” This is a notice that is sent to employer of a person liable to pay child support that notifies that party of the order’s existence and terms, and instructs the company’s payroll personnel to withhold the correct amount from the non-custodial parent’s pay and forward it to the state for processing.
This process has several advantages. First, it helps ensure the correct amount of money gets to the custodial parent. It also makes it harder for a parent ordered to pay support to forget and get behind on the financial obligation. Further, since the state accounts for every penny paid, it can reduce disputes about whether or not a certain payment has been made, as a record will be kept of each payment. While not always used, IWOs may be required by law in certain circumstances, such as when the children in question have received benefits from a Title IV-D agency.
IWOs may mean that the child support takes slightly longer to get to the custodial parent, as it goes to the state, then the state forwards the amount on to the parent, less any money owed to the state for any benefits received on behalf of the kids. Even so, in many instances of child support IWOs offer more advantages than disadvantages.