GEORGIA CHILD SUPPORT GUIDELINES
Karen S. Hindson, Hindson & Melton LLC
Georgia Child Support Guidelines apply to all actions pending on or after January 1, 2007.
By posting this information on our website, we are not suggesting that you should proceed without an attorney. These links are provided for educational purposes only:
The child support guidelines take the incomes of both parents into account in establishing child support. The child support obligation table provides the basic child support obligation based on the combined adjusted income of both parents and the number of children to be supported. The amount from this chart will be rebuttably presumed to be the appropriate amount of basic child support to be provided by both parents, prior to consideration of percentage of income, health insurance, work related child care costs, and deviations.
Child support is calculated as follows, using the worksheets developed by the Child Support Commission (this is an overview; you will need to discuss your specific circumstances with your attorney). The calculations need not be done manually; the spreadsheet does the calculations based on the information you input. For a link to the spreadsheet/worksheets, see the Hindson Melton Web Resources page.
Step 1 – determine the monthly gross income of both parents. (Gross income may include imputed income if applicable.)
Step 2 – adjust each parent’s monthly gross income by deducting one-half of any self-employment taxes, any preexisting child support orders for current support for other children, and any theoretical child support orders approved by the court for other qualified children being supported (stepchildren are not qualified children).
Step 3 – add each parent’s adjusted income together to determine the Combined Adjusted Income
Step 4 – Refer to the child support obligation table to locate the Basic Child Support Obligation
Step 5 – Calculate the pro rata share of the basic child support obligation for the custodial parent and the noncustodial parent by dividing the combined adjusted income into each parent’s adjusted income to arrive at each parent’s pro rata percentage of the basic child support obligation
Step 6 – calculate the Adjusted Child Support Obligation by adding the additional expenses of the cost of health insurance and work related child care costs, prorating such expenses in accordance with each parent’s pro rata share of the obligation and adding such expenses to the pro rata share of the obligation.
Step 7 – determine the presumptive amount of child support for the custodial parent and the noncustodial parent by assigning or deducting credit for actual payments for health insurance and work related child care costs
Step 8 – If any deviations are approved by the Court, they would be subtracted from or added to the presumptive amount of child support.
Step 9 – Uninsured health care expenses will also be divided based on the pro rata responsibility of the parents unless the court determines otherwise.
The “presumptive amount of child support” means the basic child support obligation including health insurance and work related child care costs.
What is a “deviation”? An increase or decrease from the presumptive amount of child support if the Court makes findings of fact that justify a change from the presumptive amount. Deviations can be based on items such as high income, low income, travel expenses, alimony, mortgage, extraordinary expenses, special expenses incurred for the child, and parenting time.
The “final child support order” is the presumptive amount of child support adjusted by any deviations.
How is “adjusted income” determined for child support purposes? Deduct from that parent’s gross income one-half of any self-employment taxes being paid by the parent, and any preexisting child support order being paid by the parent for current child support (for the child of a different parent), and any theoretical child support order for other qualified children (if allowed by the Court). “Combined Adjusted Income” means the amount of adjusted income of both parents added together.
Who is the “custodial parent”? The parent with whom the child resides more than 50 percent of the time. If each parent spends exactly 50% of the time with the child, then the court designates the parent with the lesser child support obligation as the custodial parent.
What is a “parenting time adjustment”? An adjustment to the noncustodial parent’s portion of the basic child support obligation based on his or her Court-ordered visitation with the child.
What is the “percentage of income” and how is it used? The percentage of income for each parent is obtained by dividing each parent’s adjusted gross income by the combined total of both parents’ adjusted gross income. The percentage of income is used to determine each parent’s pro rata share of the basic child support obligation and each parent’s share of the amount of additional expense for health insurance and work related child care, as well as the amount of uninsured medical expenses that each parent must pay.
What is “split parenting”? When there are two or more children of the same parents, and one parent is custodial parent for one child and the other parent is custodial parent for the other child or children. No child will have more than one custodial parent. In a split parenting case, there is a separate calculation for child support for each child.
What if a parent’s other child or children are not under a preexisting child support order? The court can determine a “theoretical support order” as if an order existed for the child support in order to permit a credit for the support of that other child or children.
What are “work related child care costs”? Expenses for the care of the child which are due to employment of either parent. In an appropriate case, the court may consider child care costs associated with a parent’s job search or training or education of a parent necessary to obtain a job or enhance earning potential (not to exceed a reasonable time as determined by the court, if the parent proves that the job search, training, or education will benefit the child being supported.) Work related child care costs are projected for the next 12 months and averaged to obtain a monthly amount.
Can the amount of support indicated by the guidelines be increased? Yes, according to the best interest of the child and the circumstances of the parties, and considering grounds for deviation set forth in the law. The state policy is to afford to children of unmarried parents, to the extent possible, the same economic standard of living enjoyed by children living in intact families consisting of parents with similar financial means.
The Court will make a written finding of the gross income of the father and the mother as part of its order. The Court will also determine whether health insurance for the child is reasonably available at a reasonable cost to either parent, and the Court may order that the child be covered under such insurance.
If the Court finds that one or more of the reasons for deviating from the presumptive amount of child support applies, the court will specify in its order the reasons the court deviated from the presumptive amount of child support and how the best interest of the child will be served by deviation.
May the parties enter into an agreement for child support which is different from the guidelines? Yes, however the Court will review the adequacy of the child support negotiated by the parties, including medical expenses and health insurance, and if the agreement deviates from the law without findings of fact which support a deviation, the court shall reject the agreement. The parties shall provide their child support calculation worksheets to the Court to assist with this determination.
Will the duty to pay child support still stop at age 18? Yes, except when the child has not yet finished high school, and in that case it will continue until the child completes high school, but not past age the child’s 20 th birthday.
What is included in “gross income”? All income from any source, whether earned or unearned, before deductions for taxes and other deductions. It includes bonuses, overtime, commissions, trust income, capital gains, disability, workers compensation, gifts, and unemployment, in addition to many other examples of income listed in the statute.
What is excluded from “gross income”? Child support received for a child from another relationship, benefits such as PeachCare for Kids, food stamps, and SSI are examples of income not included in the gross income determination.
What if a parent fails to produce reliable evidence of income for the court (such as tax returns for prior years, check stubs, or other information for determining ability to support)? The court can look to other reliable evidence of the parent’s income or income potential. In a modification case where a parent fails to produce reliable evidence of income, the court may enter an order to increase the child support obligation of that parent by at least 10 percent per year of that parent’s pro rata share for each year since the order was last modified.
What about self-employment income? This would include gross receipts minus ordinary and necessary expenses required for self-employment or business operations. Excessive promotional, travel, vehicle, or personal living expenses, and accelerated depreciation, will be excluded as a business expense in the calculation of gross self-employment income. The law recognizes that self-employment income should be carefully examined by the court and the amount of income will generally differ from a determination of business income for tax purposes.
What about variable income such as commissions, bonuses, overtime pay, and dividends? The court averages such income over a reasonable period of time to determine how much to include in gross income of that parent. Or, the court may require the parent to pay as one-time support a percentage of his or her nonrecurring income.
What if a parent is willfully or voluntarily unemployed or underemployed? The court can consider past and present employment, education and training, whether the underemployment/unemployment is reasonable in light of the parent’s obligation to support his or her children, whether the parent owns valuable assets that appear unreasonable for the income claimed by the parent, and the parent’s role as caretaker of a handicapped or seriously ill child or other relative.
What if a parent has been out of the workforce as a caretaker? In considering the income potential of a parent whose work experience is limited due to the caretaker role of that parent, the court can consider how long the parent has remained out of the workforce, whether they were a full-time caretaker immediately before the divorce action, his or her education, training, and ability to work, and whether the parent is caring for a child or children age 4 or younger.
If a court determines that a parent is willfully and voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, child support shall be calculated based on a determination of potential income, as evidenced by educational level or previous work experience. At a minimum, if there is no other reliable evidence, the court may impute income equal to 40 hours a week of minimum wage.
What if a parent is paying child support on a child from another relationship? An adjustment to that parent’s gross income will be made if the child support is actually being paid under an order of support for at least 12 consecutive months prior to the date of the hearing. No payments on arrearages shall be used as a basis to reduce gross income. The court may also consider a credit for support of a qualified child who a parent is actually supporting for whom the parent is legally responsible even if there is no preexisting order for child support. Stepchildren and other minors in the home that the parent has no legal obligation to support do not count.
How is alimony considered? Actual payments of alimony should not be considered as a deduction from gross income but may be considered as a factor to vary from the final presumptive child support order. In such a case, the court must make a written finding of such consideration as a basis for deviation.
How is the basic child support obligation determined? Look to the child support obligation table for the income bracket closest to the combined monthly adjusted income of the parents. The number of children column will refer to the number of children for whom the parents share joint legal responsibility and for whom support is being sought.
The child support obligation table will not include work related child care costs or the cost of health insurance premiums or uninsured health expenses. These will be recorded on the worksheets. If child care is provided by a parent or family member, the value of those services should be not added.
In standard parenting situations, the adjusted support obligation is the parent’s share of the basic child support obligation plus the parent’s share of any additional expenses for the child’s health insurance premium and work related child care.
In split parenting situations, the adjusted support obligation is each parent’s basic child support obligation for the child in the other parent’s care plus each parent’s share of any additional expenses for the child’s health insurance premium and work related child care.
The amount of child support established under the table and these procedures is presumed correct but is rebuttable, and the Court may deviate from the presumptive child support guidelines. The Court shall consider the best interest of the children. When ordering a deviation, the court’s order shall explain the reasons.
What about high income parents? Parents are considered high-income if their combined adjusted income exceeds $30,000 per month. The court sets child support at the highest amount allowed by the table, but may deviate upward where appropriate in the best interest of the children.
A low income person is a parent whose annual gross income equals $1,850 or less per month. The court may take this into consideration making a deviation.
Parenting time travel expenses – if parenting time travel expenses are substantial due to the distance between parents, the court may order the allocation of such costs by deviation from the basic child support obligation, taking into consideration who moved and why.
Extraordinary expenses are considered on a case by case basis. These might include expenses associated with special needs education or private elementary and secondary schooling that are appropriate to the parents’ financial abilities and to the lifestyle of the child if the parents and children were living together.
Special expenses may be added to the child support obligation as a deviation from the presumptive order – including items such as summer camp, music or art lessons, travel, and school sponsored extracurricular activities. A portion of the basic child support obligation is intended to cover average amounts of special expenses, but when special expenses exceed 7 percent of the monthly basic child support obligation, then the court shall consider additional amounts of support as a deviation to cover the full amount of these special expenses.
In cases of extreme economic hardship, deviation may be considered. An example might be extraordinary medical needs not covered by insurance for the child of a parent’s current family.
In the event a parents suffers an involuntary termination of employment, has an extended involuntary loss of average weekly hours, is involved in an organized strike, incurs a loss of health, or similar involuntary adversity resulting in a loss of income of 25 percent or more, then the portion of child support attributable to lost income shall not accrue from the date of service of the petition for modification, provided that service is made on the other parent.
No petition to modify child support may be filed by either parent within a period of two years from the date of the final order on a previous petition to modify unless a noncustodial parent has failed to exercise court ordered visitation, or has exercised a greater amount of visitation than was provided in the court order, or the motion is based on an involuntary loss of income. Otherwise, a petition to modify cannot be filed regardless of the length of time unless there is a substantial change in either parent’s income and financial status or needs of the child.
If there is a difference of at least 15 percent but less than 30 percent between a new award and a child support order entered prior to January 1, 2007, the Court may phase in the new child support over a period of up to one year. If there is a difference of 30 percent or more, the court may phase in the new child support award over a period of up to two years.
In proceedings for modification of child support based on this law, the court may award attorneys fees, costs, and expenses of litigation to the prevailing party. If a custodial parent prevails in an upward modification of child support based upon the noncustodial parent’s failure to be available and willing to exercise visitation as scheduled under the prior order, reasonable and necessary attorneys fees and expenses of litigation shall be awarded to the custodial parent.
© 2011 Karen S. Hindson, Hindson & Melton LLC