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- Child Support in Georgia
The following information is from the brochure, “Child Support in Georgia,” prepared by the Georgia Legal Aid Society, June, 2007.
Georgia’s new child support guidelines began January 1, 2007. Under the old law, courts used just the income of the parent the child was not living with to decide how much child support should be paid. Under the new law, courts will consider the income of both parents. The court will also look at the best interest of the children.
Courts will first look at the income of both parents. Sometimes a person’s income is not clear. There are rules for certain situations, such as:
- When a parent is self-employed.
- When a parent’s income changes due to tips, bonuses, overtime, or commission.
- When a parent receives money from social security retirement or disability income, workers compensation or unemployment income. Certain types of income are not considered. Child support, TANF, SSI, food stamps, and Medicaid benefits are not counted when figuring out the income a parent has. Parents must bring the court proof of their incomes. When there is no reliable proof, it is up to the court to decide the parent’s income. Courts may also ask questions to see why a parent chooses not to work or does not work enough. If this happens, the court can set child support based on the parent’s earning ability.
SUPPORTING OTHER CHILDREN
There are special rules about lowering available income when a parent is paying for the support of other children who are not part of the court case.
If a parent pays child support for other children under a prior court order, a court will subtract that amount from that parent’s income.
The court may (but does not have to) lower a parent’s income if the parent supports another child who is living with him or her. The parent must be legally responsible to support the child. (A step-parent does not qualify.)
EACH PARENT’S BASIC SHARE OF SUPPORT
After the court decides how much income each parent has, it adds the two incomes. Then the court looks at a table to see how much of that income should be spent on the child(ren) each month. Each parent is responsible for a part of that amount. The exact amount each parent must pay depends on what part of the total income that parent makes. For instance, if the parents make the same amount of money, then they are each expected to provide half of the money the child needs. If a father makes 2/3 of the total income and the mother makes 1/3, then the father is expected to provide 2/3 of the support the child needs and the mother is expected to pay 1/3 of the child support.
HEALTH INSURANCE AND CHILD CARE
Some families have health insurance costs or work- or education-related child care costs. Others do not. For those who do, the court divides these costs between the parents based on their percentage of the total income and adds it to the amount of child support the parent should pay.
PAYING AND RECEIVING CHILD SUPPORT
Except in certain circumstances (see “Other Expenses” section), this number is the amount of money each parent is expected to pay to support the children. The parent with whom the children lives (“custodial parent”) pays his/her amount by providing things the child needs; the other parent (“non-custodial parent”) pays his/her amount by making payments to the custodial parent. These payments can be made through the child support registry, by having the money taken from their paychecks, or in any way the court orders.
Courts can change the amount of child support listed on the child support table if the child(ren) have certain special expenses. These changes are called “deviations” and can only be made if the court decides that the standard amount would not be fair or appropriate, and that the change would be in the children’s best interests.
Courts can not make a deviation if the new amount would hurt the custodial parent’s ability to provide for the basic needs of the children. Courts may (but are not required to) use these factors to either increase or decrease the amount of child support ordered. The court may ask if a parent:
Has low income ($1850 per month or less)?
Has vision or dental insurance?
Has substantial travel expenses for visiting the children?
Makes mortgage payments for the other parent?
Pays for things s/he needs in order to have a child returned from foster care?
Has high medical expenses for him or herself or any of his/her children or parents?
Takes a deduction for the children on his/her taxes?
Has equal custody of the children or has the children for long periods of visitation?
HELP ON THE INTERNET
To assist you in doing your own child support numbers you can look at the self-guided child support website. Go to https://services.georgia.gov /dhr/cspp/do /public/SupportCalc and click on the Guided Worksheet. You can find more information about child support at www.LegalAidGA.org. Look under the Family Law and Domestic Violence section.
If you have questions about Child Support, contact your local Office of Child Support Services or call Georgia Legal Services Program (GLSP) at 1-800-498-9469 to find the closest office to you. GLSP does not have enough lawyers to handle all child support cases. If we can’t help you, we can give you helpful information or refer you to a private attorney. Be sure to call GLSP if your case involves violence or abuse.
This brochure gives you general information only. Contact a lawyer for individual legal advice in your case. Act immediately if you have court papers. Time is important.
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Free, easy to understand legal information from Atlanta Legal Aid Society and Georgia Legal Services Program
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) Info
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- Collecting Child Support: A Guide for Parents
The following information is from the brochure, “Collecting Child Support: A Guide for Parents,” prepared by Georgia Legal Services Program, June, 2007.
Your child has a right to be supported. By law, parents must support their child until the child either:
- reaches the age of 18 (if in high school, up to age 20),
- marries, or
- becomes emancipated.
The parent who takes care of the child is called the custodial parent. The custodial parent can get financial support from the non-custodial parent through a legal action. Be aware that abusers sometimes withhold money to try to keep control in a relationship. If you feel that the other parent is using money to control you or force you to return to an abusive relationship, you can call the Domestic Violence Hotline At 1-800-33HAVEN for additional help.
How can I get child support started?
There are different actions you can take.
Contact the Office of Child Support Services (OCSS) in your county. OCSS is the agency that helps the custodial parent find the absent noncustodial parent. OCSS can:
get the absent parent to pay child support whether he or she lives in Georgia or another state;
help you get a court order;
help you collect child support
If you receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or Medicaid, there is no charge. If you do not receive TANF or Medicaid, the cost of OCSS services is $25.
Go to court for Child Support. Child Support should be granted in:
- divorce or separate maintenance cases;
- paternity cases;
- family violence cases; (TPO’s)
- custody cases.
File a Criminal Abandonment Warrant. If the other parent does not pay any support for more than 30 days, he or she can be charged with abandonment. Contact the Clerk of Courts in your county to find out how to file these charges. If the other parent is found guilty, he or she may be placed in jail.
What if I have a court order for support, but the other parent is not paying?
There are a number of legal actions you can consider.
- Get an Income Deduction Order. An Income Deduction Order is the most effective way to collect child support. This orders the non-custodial parent’s employer to withhold the amount of child support from his or her paycheck. If you already have a child support order and it does not contain income deduction, it can be changed if the other parent is behind for more than the amount of one month’s support.
- File a “contempt” action. A parent who is behind in child support is in contempt. He or she can be ordered to pay what is owed and to cover your legal costs. You can contact Georgia Legal Services for a referral to an attorney who may help you file this action.
- Contact the Office of Child Support Services. OCSS can help get the court order enforced. OCSS can also help you get a portion of the other parent’s tax refund if you request it by August of each year.
- Get a lien. If you know the other parent owns real estate or personal property, talk to an attorney about making a claim against that property.
- File a garnishment. If the absent parent is at least 30 days behind in the amount of support he or she owes, you can file a garnishment. Georgia Legal Services Program can give you a packet with instructions for filing Continuing Garnishment for Support. You can also garnish bank accounts, Social Security benefits and tax refunds. SSI and TANF cannot be garnished.
- Ask that a court deny or suspend the other parent’s license. If the parent is 60 days behind on child support but has the ability to pay, the court can deny or suspend his or her driver’s license, professional license, hunting or fishing license.
What if I receive public assistance?
When you accept public assistance through TANF, you give the Georgia Department of Human Resources (DHR) the right to start a child support action and recover payments from the non-custodial parent.
If you are on TANF and the Office of Child Support Services has not recovered child support for you, you may have a right to collect child support on your own. If you do, you must report to OCSS the amount of child support you collect as income. You must also report this to your Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS) caseworker. If you do not, you could be charged with an overpayment or fraud.
Must I tell who the other parent is?
If you have good cause not to name the other parent, you should still be able to get TANF. If you have been abused by the other parent, you may have good cause. DFCS can waive any TANF rule if it would put you at further risk of family violence. If you have questions about whether you can refuse to help OCSS, contact Georgia Legal Services. See the back panel of this brochure for the address and phone number of the office nearest you.
Child Support Guidelines
Calculating Child Support The incomes of both parents are used to figure out how much child support should be paid. For more information, see our brochure called “Child Support in Georgia”. To get copies of the financial documents you must submit in a child support case, go to http://services.georgia.gov/dhr/cspp/do/public/ SupportCalc.
Child Support Services Hotline
From area codes (404), (678), (770): 404-463-8800
From (229), (478), (706), (912): 1-800-227-7993
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Collecting Child Support When You Can’t Afford a Lawyer
The majority of the information provided here is available on the website of the Division of Child Support Services. We are providing this information as a public service for parents needing public assistance collecting child support.
We know there are people who simply do not have the money to hire a divorce lawyer for problems like collecting child support. For these parents, the Division of Child Support Services offers assistance. To see if you qualify you can submit an application online and pay a non-refundable $25 application fee.
Is it better to hire a divorce lawyer near me? Hiring a skilled local divorce lawyer will assure you of more personal service and a dedicated effort versus dealing with a State employee with a massive burden of cases to work. Another benefit of hiring a local divorce lawyer is that they will be familiar with your situation and better able to help you with other needs such as filing a divorce modification.
Opening a Child Support Case
To open a case, either parent can call Child Support Services (CSS) and schedule an appointment. Anyone who gets help from the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program or receives certain Medicaid benefits can get help from CSS without having to apply. Others must complete an application form and pay an application fee. Applications are available from all CSS offices. You may call any office and ask them to mail you the application or you may access the application on-line.
Locating the Non-custodial Parent
To get a support order, establish paternity or enforce a child support order, CSS must know where the non-custodial parent lives and/or works. It may take several months to get child support if you do not know where the other parent lives or if the address is out of state. There is no guarantee the other parent will be found. The more information you provide, such as the other parent’s date of birth and social security number, the easier it will be.
Paternity means legal fatherhood. Before the court can order child support and medical support, paternity must be established. If the parents were not married when the child was born, the biological father can be made the legal father by an administrative or court order. If the man is unwilling to admit paternity, the mother must sign a paternity affidavit before genetic testing and/or a court hearing can be scheduled. Testing is done by Buccal Swabbing (saliva) or by drawing a blood sample. The test is generally more than 99% accurate.
Establishing a Support Order
A child support order is established based on the Georgia Child Support Guidelines that consider the income of both parents and the number of children. Sometimes other factors may be considered.
Does it matter if the non-custodial parent lives in another state?
No. States cooperate with each other to establish and collect child support. However, the other state’s child support agency and legal system may be involved, which may cause a delay.
What about health insurance?
Enforcing a Support Order
When the non-custodial parent does not pay the full amount, or does not pay at all, enforcement action is necessary.
After a child support order is in place, the support amount will be deducted from the non-custodial parent’s paycheck. State law requires immediate income withholding in most cases. This is an easy way for the non-custodial parent to make child support payments. It also provides the non-custodial parent with a record of payments made. If support payments are not deducted from the non-custodial parent’s paycheck, they should be paid to the Georgia Family Support Registry or as directed in the court order and to no one else. It is very important to keep records of the payments that are made.
What happens when the non-custodial parent does not always pay the ordered amount?
If a parent does not obey a support order, he or she may be found in contempt of court. A contempt action may be filed against the non-custodial parent who fails to make support payments or does not maintain the required medical insurance. Non-custodial parents found in contempt of court may be fined, sentenced to jail or both. The judge may order the non-custodial parent who is unable to pay to enroll in the Fatherhood Program.
The child support order may also be enforced through:
- Withholding child support from paychecks or unemployment insurance payments or weekly worker’s compensation benefits
- Intercepting federal and/or state income tax refunds
- Reporting delinquent parents to major credit bureaus
- Suspending or revoking driver’s, professional or occupational licenses for failure to pay child support
- Reviewing and modifying child support orders periodically
- Intercepting lottery winnings up to amounts allowed by Georgia Law
- Filing liens to seize matched bank accounts, lump sum worker’s compensation settlements and real or personal property
- Denying, suspending or revoking passports issued by the State Department
- Requiring the posting of bond to secure payment of overdue support
In Georgia, if you receive overtime pay, even sporadically, it will be included in your income for purposes of a child support calculation.
The Georgia child support guidelines require that all income, of any kind, and from any source is included in a child support calculation. A letter from your employer (or similar evidence) stating that overtime is not guaranteed will not exclude your overtime pay from your gross income for purposes of child support.
Overtime Pay Case Law
For example, in 2009, the Georgia Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s decision that refused to include a parent’s overtime pay in the child support calculation. See Evans v. Evans, 285 Ga. 319 (Ga., 2009).
In this case, the lower court found that the non-custodial parent’s gross income was $5,000 per month, but refused to use that amount for purposes of that parent’s child support calculation because that income “includes a significant amount of overtime that is not guaranteed.” Id. at 319.
In reversing the lower court’s decision, the Georgia Supreme Court cited the relevant portion of the child support guidelines, which states that “…in determining the gross income of each parent in the process of setting the presumptive amount of child support, gross income ‘shall include all income from any source, before deductions for taxes and other deductions…whether earned or unearned, and includes, but is not limited to…overtime payments.’” Id. at 319-320, citing O.C.G.A. § 19-6-15(f)(1)(A).
This means that if a parent receives any overtime payments, no matter how small or irregular, the court is required to include such payments in that parent’s gross income when setting a child support obligation.
In the Evans case, however, the Georgia Supreme Court also noted that the child support guidelines provide the lower courts with discretion to average such overtime payments over a reasonable period of time. This discretion is intended to avoid an inequitable outcome that could otherwise result when a parent periodically receives substantial amounts of sporadic overtime pay.
As stated by the Georgia Supreme Court in Evans v. Evans, the lower “…court’s concerns regarding the uncertainty of [a parent]’s overtime payments are addressed by O.C.G.A. § 19-6-15(f)(1)(D), which provides that
[v]ariable income such as…overtime pay…shall be averaged by the court…over a reasonable period of time consistent with the circumstances of the case and added to a parent’s fixed salary or wages to determine gross income. When income is received on an irregular, nonrecurring, or one-time basis, the court….may, but is not required to, average or prorate the income over a reasonable specified period of time or require the parent to pay as a one-time support amount a percentage of his or her nonrecurring income, taking into consideration the percentage of recurring income of that parent.
The application of this portion of the Georgia Child Support Guidelines lies within the discretion of the trial court judge.
A parent that receives overtime pay in Georgia must understand that any overtime pay they receive is included in their income for purposes of a child support calculation.
However, that parent must be prepared to demonstrate to the court that their overtime pay should be averaged over an appropriate period of time, such that their income will not be appear exaggerated in light of their typical earnings.
For parents, finding reliable information about child support online can be a challenge. While most states’ child support laws are similar, the specifics vary from one state to the next, and it can often be difficult to tell whether a particular resource is up-to-date on the latest guidelines that apply.
Unfortunately, this has led to the spread of several myths about child support in Georgia. While these myths may sound reasonable, they represent fundamental misunderstandings of the law as it applies both within and outside of the context of a divorce. If you are trying to figure out your rights and obligations regarding child support, below are three common myths about child support in Georgia of which you should be aware:
Myth #1: The Father Always Pays Child Support.
Contrary to popular belief, the father does not always pay child support in the event of a separation or divorce. When it comes to establishing parents’ financial obligations, the law does not inherently favor one parent over the other. Instead, it focuses on each of the parents’ respective incomes, earning capacities, and the custodial arrangement (along with certain other factors), and it uses an objective set of guidelines to determine each parent’s financial obligation.
Follow our child support guidelines and use our simple Georgia child support calculator to get an idea of what obligation may be required in your case.
Myth #2: You Cannot Get Child Support Unless You are Divorced.
Another common misconception is that you cannot get child support without being divorced. This is a myth because parents can obtain child support:
- as a result of a non-marital separation;
- while a divorce is pending;
- during a Separate Maintenance action.
Georgia’s child support laws do not apply exclusively to married couples. They are designed to ensure that children have adequate access to financial resources, and they apply equally to wed and unwed parents. If you are concerned about how you are going to pay for your children’s nutritional, educational, medical, and other needs while your divorce is pending, you can petition the court for a “temporary” child support order. If parties opt for a legal separation, known as a Separate Maintenance action in Georgia, child support can be awarded as well.
Myth #3: If You Have a Joint Custody Arrangement, Neither Parent Pays Child Support.
In a joint custody arrangement, the parents will often share equal decision-making rights and substantially-equal parenting time. If you have equal custody, who pays child support? While it may seem that neither parent should pay child support in this type of arrangement, the Georgia courts will still look to the children’s needs and the parents’ respective finances to decide whether one parent should pay financial support to the other.
Bonus Myth: Child Support Payments End When a Child Reaches Age 18.
While the general rule in Georgia is that child support ends at age 18, this is not always the case. There are circumstances where child support can end earlier, such as when a child becomes emancipated, for example. Conversely, if a child has not yet graduated from high school, child support can continue until age 20.
Speak with a Georgia Child Support Lawyer at Stearns‑Montgomery & Proctor
If you live in the greater Atlanta metropolitan area and would like to speak with an attorney about child support, we encourage you to contact us for a confidential consultation. To schedule an appointment at one of our six convenient office locations, please call (678) 971-3413 or inquire online today.
Here are the basics about paying and collecting child support in Georgia.
First, we understand that an immense amount of energy is involved in any divorce. And whenever children are involved, that’s a whole new level of emotional heavy lifting.
At ProPrudence, we believe that no parent should be left with the short end of the stick simply because they didn’t know any better.
You may be here with questions about calculating child support, modifying a child support agreement, or about enforcing an existing child support order. In this article, we’ll discuss the basics of child support in Georgia to arm you with the knowledge you need for your child support case.
Who Pays Child Support in Georgia?
Whenever two parents divorce, they must decide who will take care of the child(ren). The parent who has custody more than 50% of the time is known as the custodial parent; the other is known as the noncustodial parent.
If the parents spend equal amounts of time with the child(ren), the court will designate one parent (usually the one with lesser child support obligations) as the custodial parent.
The parent responsible for child support payments is known as the obligor parent.
However, just because you have been named the noncustodial parent does not mean that you will definitely have to pay child support.
Amount of Child Support Payments
Georgia uses an income shares model to determine how much the obligor parent is responsible for. This model estimates the total amount that parents would spend on a child in an intact family unit, then splits this amount proportionally according to both parents’ incomes.
In the past, child support payments would only be calculated based on the noncustodial parent’s gross income. This new model allows the courts to take multiple factors into consideration to arrive at a payment plan that’s fair for both parents.
If you anticipate being the noncustodial parent, this does not mean you will definitely have to pay child support. The court will factor in both parents’ finances, including:
- Wages & commissions
- Disability payments
- Military pensions
- Retirement account payments
- Self employment earnings
- Investment earnings
- Child support from a separate/different case
- Taxes on self employment income
- Children from another relationship (standard child related tax deductions)
- Adjustments for childcare and/or health insurance
Estimating your child support payment or obligation can be done here.
Once the standard child support amount has been determined, either parent—or the judge—may adjust this amount based on the unique circumstances of each case.
Changing a Child Support Order
As with any situation involving multiple humans—some of them minors—the initial arrangement may become outdated or inconvenient.
Georgia law allows either parent to make a petition to modify an existing child support order. In most cases, the obligor parent is likely seeking a reduction in payment while the obligee parent is typically seeking an increase in payment.
The Division of Child Support Services will review both parents’ financial circumstances—and the child custody arrangement—to see if a modification should be made. The amount of child support paid by the obligor parent may go up, down, or even stay the same.
While not required, we recommend speaking with an attorney prior to filing for a modification. A family attorney can help you work through the tax ramifications of modifying your child support order.
How to Pay Child Support
Although your child support payments will be going to your ex-spouse, payments are all done through the Georgia Family Support Registry (GFSR).
Payment of child support can take the following forms:
- Credit Card
- Western Union
- Bank Transfer
- Direct Deposit
In addition to processing and dispersing the funds, GFSR will keep detailed records of all payments made.
Enforcing Child Support
In most cases, the Georgia Family Support Registry will pull payments directly from the obligor parent’s paycheck. However, there are some instances where your ex-spouse defaults on their financial obligations and falls behind on child support.
Thankfully, you have options for collecting the payments you’re owed.
- File a Contempt of Court Action
- Request an Income Withholding Order to have the court collect child support payments by deducting them from your spouse’s paycheck
- Obtain a Writ of Fieri Facias to place a lien on their property
- File for wage garnishment
- Contact Georgia’s Division of Child Support Services (DCSS)
DCSS has the authority to enforce child support matters and can help you with any of the above options.
Having children can complicate your divorce, but it doesn’t have to. Especially if you have an experienced and knowledgeable family attorney on your side.
Unfortunately, no one can definitively state that they will not get into a child custody battle during their divorce. We highly recommend retaining a lawyer to represent you throughout your divorce and to defend your parental rights.
If you live in Georgia and are looking for a divorce lawyer or family law attorney to assist you with a child support case, ProPrudence can help. Our proprietary software can help you connect with an attorney via video chat so you can learn more about your rights and what to expect.
Child support for unmarried parents in Georgia works almost the same way it does for married parents. Regardless of marital status, non-custodial parents have a responsibility to pay some of the expenses related to raising their child. This support is court-ordered, and may include costs such as health insurance and education expenses.
The amount of child support paid in these cases relies on the income of the parents and the needs of the child. Whether or not the parents ever married does not change this amount, although the process for getting the non-custodial parent to pay is somewhat different.
How Courts Determine the Amount of Child Support
Georgia courts often use a formula to calculate child support. This formula is the same no matter if the parents are married or unmarried. In this way, the courts will calculate child support orders for a child of unmarried parents the same way as orders for a child of previously married parents.
After determining the amount, the judge issues a court order requiring the non-custodial parent to pay a fixed amount each month until his or her child reaches age 18. If the child will still be in high school when he or she turns 18, the courts will often extend the order through graduation.
Is Child Support Automatic?
When parents are married when the child is born, the law assumes the husband is the father. This means that when the couple divorces, the courts will automatically assign child support payments to the non-custodial parent. When the parents are unwed, however, additional steps are necessary to establish paternity under Georgia law.
Many parents choose to do this through a Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment Form at the hospital when the child is born, at the State Office of Vital Records, or at the county vital records office.
However, if unmarried parents break up and one refuses to complete this form, the process becomes more complicated. When this happens, the Division of Child Support Services may order the potential father to undergo paternity testing before the court can order him to pay child support.
Does Paying Child Support Give the Father Rights to Custody or Visitation?
Under Georgia law, the child’s mother has all legal custody rights when the parents are unmarried. This means that even when the father goes through all of the steps to confirm paternity and the court orders him to pay child support, he does not have any legal rights to visitation or custody.
To gain visitation rights, the father must go through an additional process by filing a legitimation action in court. Through this process, he can request custody or visitation with his child.
Can a Lawyer Help Me Secure Support for my Child?
The Ward Law Firm has the experience and resources to help you navigate the child support process in Georgia.
Contact us today at 770-383-1973 to schedule a REAL Case Analysis and to learn more about how we can help you through the process of getting child support for your child or establishing paternity and gaining visitation rights.
Several family law lawyers say a Sept. 20 Georgia Supreme Court ruling that affirmed a lower court’s grant of a lump-sum child support payment to cover 13 years of care sets a “dangerous” precedent because it grants one parent a large sum of cash without oversight. But the court said nothing in the child support statute precludes lump-sum payments. The ruling ensures that the custodial parent in the case will receive support for the couple’s two children while her former husband is in prison.
“I think the court was right that it had to be left with the trial judge to decide,” said Teresa A. Mann of Mann & Moran, who represented the custodial parent before the Georgia Supreme Court in the case. “That’s who is hearing the case. That’s who can determine what’s in the best interest of the children.”
The ruling states the principal issue in the case is whether trial courts have the authority under the child support child support guidelines statute, O.C.G.A. § 19-6-15, to order lump-sum payments.
“This is more of a pre-payment plan than a lump-sum payment,” said Randall M. Kessler, chairman-elect of the family law sections of the State Bar of Georgia and the American Bar Association. “Child support used to be based on the existing facts but this predicts the facts. It presumes the situation will not change,” said Kessler.
Lacey E. Roy and Scott J. Mullin were married in 2004, had two children and separated in June 2007, according to the decision. Lacey Mullin filed for divorce on Oct. 2, 2007. A short time later, Scott Mullin was arrested for possession of child pornography and lost his job as a senior systems engineer at Cox Newspapers, where he had been making about $80,000 per year. He had received an inheritance of about $422,000 and began living on that money, according to the decision.
The couple agreed to a partial settlement resolving all issues in the divorce except child support. A bench trial on child support was held May 13, 2009, and the following day Scott Mullin was sentenced in federal court, where he had pleaded guilty, to serve five years in prison. The divorce degree was entered May 20, 2009.
Based on a calculation that split the difference between his estimates of his earning power when he was released from prison and her estimates, Judge Bensonetta Tipton Lane of Fulton County Superior Court arrived at a monthly child support payment of $1,122. The judge then ordered the husband to pay his entire child support obligation for the next 13 years in a single payment of $175,163, which was later increased to $201,960 to correct a miscalculation about when the youngest child would graduate from high school.
The husband filed two motions for a new trial and to set aside the judgment, arguing the law, which had been amended on Jan. 1, 2007, did not authorize lump-sum child support payments. The trial court held a hearing and denied the motions Dec. 21, 2009.
The trial court explained that it ordered the lump-sum payment because Scott Mullin had entered guilty pleas to federal crimes, was about to begin serving a prison sentence, had lost his employment, and had spent more than half of his inheritance, with about $200,000 remaining.
The trial court cited Henry v. Beacham, 301 Ga. App. 160 (686 SE2d 892) (2009), where the Court of Appeals held that lump-sum payments were authorized by statute. In that case involving former Denver Broncos running back Travis Henry, a trust was established from which the other parent could make monthly withdrawals.
Kessler represented Henry in that case. He said at the time he thought the judge in that case went too far when he ordered Henry to pay $250,000 to create a trust for one of his children and then contribute $3,000 per month to the child’s support.
“In the Travis Henry case, they said assets could be used in case someone didn’t make a payment. But it wasn’t a pre-payment. It was collateral or a guarantee,” said Kessler. “In the Henry case, there was some recourse. The money was still there. This gives all the money to the recipient with no safeguards.”
Indeed, Kessler has returned to court seeking a modification. Henry is now in prison on a cocaine charge, according to Kessler, and no longer earning any money to pay into the trust.
Michael Mosberg, a partner at the New York firm Aronson Mayefsky & Sloan, said the Mullin case sets a “dangerous” precedent. Mosberg represented Marcie Gandolfini in her divorce against actor James Gandolfini and Peter Cook in his divorce against Christie Brinkley.
“I think it’s problematic. They’ve now set this aside for mom, and she has all of this discretion with respect to the money without any oversight,” said Mosberg. “The court could be confronted with issues like, what happens if mom blows through this money? Does dad get to come back and say mom violated fiduciary obligation? Can the money be recouped and how?”
Gregory D. Golden, who represented Scott Mullin before the Georgia Supreme Court, argued that child support payments were to be paid periodically, not all at once. The law enacted Jan. 1, 2007, which expanded the statute from three pages to 37 pages, does not specifically state lump-sum payments are allowed, he said.
Golden, in arguments before the Supreme Court, said that the parties had waived alimony. “[This] becomes a windfall to the appellee. It gives her funds, monies, property that she was not entitled to under the agreement or that the trial court has authority to award to her.”
Further, awarding a lump-sum amount of child support was in effect depriving Scott Mullin, as well as the children and their custodial parent, the right to modify the child support award going forward, he said at argument. That point was questioned by the Supreme Court justices during arguments, who indicated it would be appropriate for the parties to return to court as needed.
The statute states courts determine “in what manner, how often, to whom and until when” the support shall be paid and the ruling found that nothing in the statute expressly precludes lump-sum child support awards. The court found that the final determination was up to the trial court judge. “The statute as amended explicitly authorizes trial courts to exercise discretion in setting the manner and timing of payment. … This language is certainly broad enough to encompass an order to pay a child support obligation all at once,” the decision says. Golden had argued the language in the statute indicated regular payments, not a single lump-sum payment. “When you read those three phrases together, it is clear that a periodic amount of child support was intended. If a lump-sum amount of child support was intended, then ‘how often’ doesn’t matter and ‘until when’ doesn’t matter,” he said.
Mann, the custodial parent’s lawyer before the Georgia Supreme Court, argued that while lump sums were not specifically authorized, they were not excluded. Mann said that lump-sum payments were always allowed as part of the law, and that the state Supreme Court provided clarification that a court had that as an option. “I don’t think this is going to be the answer to every child support case,” said Mann. “It’s very fact specific.”
Golden did not return a call for comment Wednesday.
Mosberg said modification hearings are a routine part of child custody and support cases in New York because things change. “That’s one of the reasons it’s a monthly payment. The overarching principal is what’s best for the child. That way the other parent can come back and say the child isn’t benefitting from the money.”
Mosberg also noted that Scott Mullin is “not a particularly sympathetic father. The court is doing what is appropriate under the circumstances to make sure mom has sufficient funds to support their child. But you can now assume that a lump sum is acceptable under the statutory framework of Georgia and I think it’s a very dangerous precedent. It’s the old ‘hard facts make bad law.’”
The case is Mullin v. Roy f/k/a Mullin, No. S10F1120.
Enforcing Child Support Orders in Georgia
You and your children depend on your child support to make ends meet. When you do not receive the child support that the Court has ordered, it can cause severe financial problems for your family. Thankfully, you have several options to force the other parent to pay court-ordered child support.
Filing a Contempt of Court Action
You can file contempt of court action to get the other parent to pay support that is past due. A child support order is an order from the court; the court has the power to enforce its orders through contempt. If the parent is found to have violated the court order, then the Court can issue sanctions. Penalties may include jail time. Importantly, an incarcerated parent is still responsible for their ongoing child support obligations. Courts have often found that the threat of incarceration can be a strong motivator to get a parent to pay the child support that is due.
Get an Income Withholding Order
Obtaining child support consistently can be easier when it is automatically deducted from the other parent’s paycheck. The original order for child support can have an income deduction clause, which requires the employer to deduct child support from the other parent’s paycheck.
In fact, as of 1994, every support order in Georgia must have a provision that allows you to have wages withheld or a reason why that is not appropriate. If you do not have this type of clause because it was not appropriate at the time, you can request an income withholding order once it becomes clear that the parent is not going to pay in a timely manner. Your family law attorney can help you with this process.
Contact the Georgia Department of Human Resources
The state of Georgia offers child support enforcement services through the Georgia Department of Human Resources, Division of Child Support Services (DCSS). This department can collect overdue child support on your behalf. They can also help your children obtain medical coverage without having to ask the court for help.
You should provide DCSS with a copy of your child support order so they know and understand the support payments you should be receiving. DCSS can help you collect by:
- Withholding child support from a paycheck, unemployment benefits, and workers’ compensation benefits
- Garnishing tax refunds from both the federal and state government
- Filing liens on real property
- Suspending or revoking a driver’s license or professional or occupational license
You can also do many of these things privately as well. For example, your attorney may be able to put a lien on the other parent’s property without involving the DCSS.
Obtain a Writ of Fieri Facias
In some situations, you can ask the court to issue a Writ of Fieri Facias (often referred to as a fi. fa.) in any county where the other parent has property. Once the fi. fa. is issued, if you record it in the property records, it acts as a lien on real estate owned by the parent that owes child support, and you may even be able to levy on personal property.
File a Garnishment
You can also start garnishment proceedings if the other parent is at least 30 days behind on his or her child support payments. You can garnish paychecks, Social Security benefits, and other sources of income. You can also garnish bank accounts, if you know where the obligated parent has accounts.
Getting Legal Help With Your Child Support Order
A Georgia family law attorney can advise you on your options for your unique situation and recommend a course of action that will benefit you and your family. Contact our team for more information.
Access a wide range of child support information on the Georgia Child Support Services site including an application for services, and use their online services through the DCSS Portal.
Georgia’s Division of Child Support Services (DCSS)
590 Commerce Park Drive, Suite 112
Marietta, GA 30060
This office works cases when both parents live within the state of Georgia.
Cobb UIFSA (350)
District Attorney’s Office Child Support Division
10 E Park Square, Suite 402
Marietta, GA 30090
This office works interstate cases only. The Cobb UIFSA (350) office reports to Region CA.
Receiver’s Office of Superior Court Administration
10 E Park Square, Suite 404
Marietta, GA 30090
Hours of Operation
Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Closed for lunch, noon to 1 p.m.
The goal of the Receiver’s Office is to receive and distribute monies as ordered by the Superior Court Judges.
Hears traffic violation and misdemeanor cases
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Provides administrative support for judges, manages probation cases, oversees petit jury service
State Court Clerk
Maintains all State Court records and collects all fines and fees associated with such
Hears felony, divorce, and title to land cases
Superior Court Administration
Provides administrative support for judges, oversees jury service
Superior Court Clerk
Maintains all Superior Court records, including divorce decrees and real estate records
Oversees guardianship appointments, management of decedent estates, probate of wills; issues marriage and weapons carry license
Hears cases involving children under the age of 18
Issues arrest warrants, hears small claims cases, conducts weddings, offers volunteer mediation
What is Child Abandonment?
A minor child is considered to be abandoned if during a consecutive 30-day period, its father or mother does not furnish sufficient food, clothing, or shelter for the needs of the child, leaving the child in a dependent condition. Each application for a Child Abandonment Warrant will be scheduled for a probable cause hearing to determine if the minor child has been abandoned.
Child Abandonment Warrant Applications
All persons applying for a misdemeanor arrest warrant for Criminal Abandonment of a Child will be required to provide a case number for an open child support case filed with the Georgia Department of Human Services before the warrant application will be scheduled for a hearing by a judge. You may contact the Department of Human Services at:
Atlanta Division of Child Support Services
1526 East Forrest Ave. Suite 300
East Point, GA 30344
Phone: 1-844-MYGADHS (1-844-694-2347)
Email the Atlanta Division of Child Support Services
Department of Human Services, Division of Child Support Services Website
How Do I Apply For a Child Abandonment Warrant?
To apply for an Abandonment Warrant you would go to the Warrant Division of the Magistrate Court in the county where the minor child currently lives. If the child lives in Fulton County, you would go to the Warrant Division of Fulton Magistrate Court. The Warrant Division is located at 160 Pryor Street, Room J150, Atlanta, GA 30303. Remember that you must have a case number that corresponds to an open child support case when you apply.
At the Warrant Division, you will complete a criminal arrest warrant application form. Pursuant to state law there is a $20.00 warrant application fee (cash only). You must have the first and last name, complete date of birth and current address for the person you allege abandoned your child. If you do not have all of this information, the court may not be able to proceed with your application.
After you have completed your application a judge will administer an oath, read your application and hear your sworn testimony. If the judge finds that the application and sworn testimony support a finding of probable cause that your minor child has been left in a dependent state, under Georgia law most civilian arrest warrant applications are set for a formal warrant application hearing. Under current law, there are very few instances when a criminal arrest warrant can be immediately issued upon the application of a private citizen without holding a warrant application hearing.
If the Judge determines that the application should be set down for a hearing, the court clerk will prepare a court notice document listing the crime alleged and setting the time, date, and location of the hearing. The court clerk will deliver one copy to the warrant applicant at the time of the application. The clerk will also mail one copy to the accused at the address provided by the applicant. An essential aspect of this procedure is the duty of the court to ensure that the accused has legal, due process notice of this hearing as stated in Georgia law. If the court finds that there is insufficient address information, or that mailed notice was returned as undeliverable, then the hearing must be cancelled. Therefore, it is absolutely essential for the applicant to provide the court with correct address information for the accused.
The final determination of whether or not to issue a criminal warrant will be made at the warrant application hearing. If they chose to hire an attorney, either party may be represented by counsel. The Magistrate Court does not collect money, and cannot order child support. The court determines if there is cause to make an arrest from the hearing. If the judge does not find probable cause that a crime has occurred then the case is dismissed and that ends the case in our court.
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Child Support Modification / Addendum for Cherokee County, Georgia
If you need child support modification information for Cherokee County, Georgia, you are not alone. Many people seek the information for filing for a child support modification each year. This site provides you with the basic information you need regarding the legal process, when and where you would file, and provides access to the forms you will need to use. You can also learn how an attorney can help ensure the process is handled correctly. It’s important to follow the legal process when filing for a child support addendum in Cherokee County and in each county around Georgia.
Quick Facts About Child Support Modification in Cherokee County:
- To be eligible to file a child support modification, two years must have passed since the judge signed a child support order, unless your original order has never been modified.
- The Superior Court Clerk’s Office strongly recommends working with an attorney if you need assistance in understanding or preparing any of the necessary forms. It is especially advisable to work with an attorney if your case will be contested, you cannot locate the person who needs to be served, you feel you may lose custody of your children, or you suspect that the other party will not want to cooperate with providing the necessary information.
- To file for a child support modification, you will need to complete the Child Support Addendum and file it at the Superior Court. The form needs to be filled out completely and filed with the necessary additional attachments, as mentioned below.
- Those who are seeking a reduction in child support payments may need to provide the last three months’ worth of their pay stubs.
- A child support modification is filed in Cherokee County if that is where the opposing party resides.
- There is a filing fee, as well as a sheriff fee for serving the other party. For the current filing rates, contact the Superior Court at 678-493-6511.
Forms Needed for Child Support Modification in Cherokee County
- Petition for Modification of Child Support / Child Support Addendum
- Child Support Worksheet
- Schedule E (Deviation Special Circumstances)
- Sheriff’s Entry of Service
Reasons to File Child Support Modification
Those who feel there should be a change in their child support should consider filing a modification. Some of the reasons may include wanting to seek more child support, asking for a reduction in child support, if there has been a change in one’s financial status since the original order, etc. Some of the reasons that people seek a modification include someone losing their job, getting a pay cut, getting a higher paying job, etc. If you have questions regarding whether or not you should seek a child support modification, you should consult with attorney who can review the facts of your case in detail.
Child Support Modification Process in Cherokee County
It is important for those filing a child support modification in Cherokee County that they complete all of the paperwork accurately and they file it according to the Superior Court’s process. The process includes filling out all of the necessary forms for the Child Support Addendum, and then filing with the Cherokee County Superior Court Clerk’s Office. Upon filing, you will be given a court date and time that you will need to attend. You will also need to provide the Sheriff’s Department with a copy of the filing package so they can serve the other party. There will be a filing fee at both the Superior Court and at the Sheriff’s Department. Contact their offices for the most current filing fee. You may also find it helpful to use the Georgia Child Support Commission’s child support calculator.
Should you hire an attorney or file yourself?
While the forms for filing for a child support modification in Cherokee County are readily available online, there are many people who should consider consulting with an attorney. It is important that all forms are completed accurately and thoroughly for them to be considered. An attorney will ensure that the entire process is filed accurately.
Many people find that they can save a lot of time and stress by working with an attorney who is familiar with the process.
There are other cases where people may need to work with an attorney in order to have their child support modification filed. This is especially true if the case is contested, your ex-spouse is not being cooperative, you fear there could be custody loss issues, or the child and the custodial parent do not live in Georgia. Most attorneys offer a free consultation. If you cannot afford to hire an attorney, you may be able to get assistance through Georgia Legal Aid and by contacting the State Bar of Georgia to inquire about pro bono attorneys.
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Child Support in Georgia
The process of establishing child support payments often causes anxiety for parents going through the divorce process or paternity suits. Most parents want to pay reasonable child support if they do not have primary custody of their children, but often worry about the impact of excessive and financially crippling payments. Matthew Midgett has helped numerous clients navigate child support guidelines throughout the Savannah area as well as throughout Chatham, Bryan and Effingham counties.
Georgia Child Support Guidelines
Savannah parents should know that the state of Georgia requires both parents to support their children until a child reaches the age of 18, dies, graduates from high school, marries, emancipates, or joins the military. However, support can extend past the age of 18, such as in the case of a child still in high school.
Because of the intricacies of a negotiations, it is best handled by a legal professional who specializes in this type of family law. Contact our firm today for an initial consultation.
What am I required to pay?
The law requires noncustodial parents to pay a reasonable amount of child support to the custodial parent toward the child’s living expenses. Child support, in addition to a monthly or weekly sum, may also include such items as health insurance and payment of medical and dental expenses.
In 2007, the state of Georgia made some sweeping changes to child support laws and adopted a more rigid structure for determining what needs to be paid. The most important changes to the law included the following:
- The law now takes into account the combined income of both parents, along with the number of children to be supported, in determining the child support obligation.
- If currently paying or receiving child support, you may be entitled to a modification of your support order based on a financial change in circumstances. In other words, you might pay a substantially different amount based on the 2007 changes to the law.
- The court cannot order parents to pay for college. However, parents may agree to pay child support beyond the age of 18 or to pay for college expenses.
- A child support obligation ‘table” is now used to determine how much child support will be paid or received. With a more rigid structure, it is very important that courts have accurate information regarding each spouses income and earning potential when calculating that spouses ability to pay child support payments.
For more information on Child Support in Georgia, contact attorney Matthew Midgett today at 912-421-1553 or reach us through our online form.
Although many lawyers question whether children in a divorcing or divorced family are unduly empowered, the law in Georgia is that a child 14 or older can elect his or her “physical custodial”, the parent with whom the child will live with more than 50% of the time. (The child is not empowered to elect who will be the legal custodian / final decision maker.) This election can be made in the initial divorce, or it can be the basis of a modification action. (Per O.C.G.A. section 19-9-3(a)(5), the election shall constitute a material change in circumstance triggering the right to file a modification).
To make the election, the child should come to the attorney’s office and sit with the attorney alone and execute an affidavit of election. The attorney should make sure the election is truly voluntarily and in the child’s best interest. The child can be compelled to testify as to any manipulation or undue influence in the election, so the child has to be strong enough to stand by his or her decision in court in front of the other parent. Not every child can do this. Atlanta Custodial Election Attorney Russell Hippe has extensive knowledge regarding the execution of an affidavit of election.
Specific Statutory Authority for the Child’s Election
O.G.G.A. Section 19-9-3(a)(5) provides:
“In all custody cases in which the child has reached the age of 14 years, the child shall have the right to select the parent with whom he or she desires to live. The child’s selection for purposes of custody shall be presumptive unless the parent so selected is determined not to be in the best interests of the child.”
This “presumptive best interest” standard, effective for all custody actions filed on or after January 1st, 2008, gives the trial court some latitude to refuse to honor a child’s custodial election. See, Driver v. Sene, 327 Ga. App. 275, 277, 758 S.E.2d 613, 616 (2014) (in this modification action, GAL recommended that 15 year old, despite his affidavit of election, remain in the custody of his mother, and court agreed this was in the 15 year old’s best interest).
Prior to January, 2008, the judge’s hands were usually tied. The old standard was the child’s election was controlling absent a finding that the elected parent was unfit. Without such a finding, the election was required to be recognized, and the court had no discretion to act otherwise. See, Scott v. Scott, 276 Ga. 372, 578 S.E.2d 876 (2003) for discussion of the old standard.
Visitation Election by Child 14 or Older in the Divorce or Post Divorce
The election of the child to live with one parent more than 50% of the time does not mean the non-custodial parent is not entitled to visitation. Further, if the child has elected to live with one parent, this does not necessarily mean the child can simply refuse to visit with the non-custodial. The Supreme Court in Worley v. Whiddon, 261 Ga. 218 (1991) noted “The fact that a child of 14 can select his or her custodial parent, does not require the conclusion that such a child can be allowed to elect not to visit with the noncustodial parent.” Accordingly, a non-custodial parent has a right to seek judicial review of any such refusal to visit. The trial court retains supervisory power of the decision of the child and can order visitation over the child’s wishes if it is in the child’s best interest.
In Worley, the Supreme Court re-affirmed it’s holding in Prater v. Wheeler, 253 Ga. 649, 322 S.E.2d 892 (1984), which noted:
“The fact that a child of 14 can select his or her custodial parent, does not require the conclusion that such a child can be allowed to elect to not visit with the noncustodial parent. Just as the selection of the custodial parent is subject to the judge’s determination that the parent so selected is ‘a fit and proper person to have the custody of the child,’ so must the modification or alteration of visitation rights . thereof be done by order of the court.”
However, if a child age 14 or older has made the independent decision (untainted by the custodial parent) that he or she does not wish to visit with the non-custodial parent (even if this decision is not in the child’s best interest), and there is no evidence that the custodial parent has wrongfully influenced this decision, ordinarily the court will not hold the custodial parent in contempt for refusing to respect the visitation schedule. See, Doritis v. Doritis, 294 Ga. 421 (2014).
Custodial Election by Child 11 to 14 in a Georgia Divorce
A child age 11-14 may sign an affidavit of election of his or her desired physical custodian and may come to court to testify regarding. However, this election is not entitled to any presumption. Concerning the custody of a child age 11 to 14, the judge will have complete discretion and the best interest standard will be controlling. The execution of an affidavit of election by a child age 11 to 14 will not, in and of itself, constitute a material change in circumstance triggering the right to file a custody modification action.
Although the method to calculate is common, the Georgia state laws aren’t
By Doug Mentes, Esq. on August 1, 2019
Updated on March 28, 2022
Like most other states, Georgia has moved to the income shares model for calculating the amount of child support. Attorneys, courts and parents have indicated this model is most fair because it considers both parents’ incomes, instead of previous models, which relied strictly on the non-custodial parent’s income.
Although the model is the same across most states, there are unique aspects to State of Georgia child support law. Knowing those aspects is key for unmarried and divorced Georgia parents.
How to calculate child support
The Georgia Child Support Commission offers parents a free online calculator to decipher their child support payment. A description of the method used for calculating the basic child support obligation (BCSO) is as follows:
- Determine gross income of each parent
- Add parents’ gross incomes together for a combined income
- Find combined income total for the amount of children in table
- Calculate each parent’s ratio of the combined income total
- Multiply the ratio of income by the child support amount in the table
By way of example, if a custodial parent earns paychecks of $400 monthly and the non-custodial parent earns $600, the parents’ combined income equals $1,000 per month. The guidelines show there will be a $239 monthly child care obligation for one child. Because the non-custodial parent earns 60 percent of the combined income, that parent will pay 60 percent of the child support obligation, or $143.40 each month.
What is gross income for support purposes?
Determining each parent’s gross income is the first step in the child support calculation—and is often one of the major areas of disagreement for parents. Gross income will generally include income from all sources, whether that is salary and wages, overtime pay, bonuses, fringe benefits or other non-employment income like investments or rental properties.
Parents can reduce their gross income by deducting certain adjustments allowed under the law. Those adjustments include payment or support of another child, income from a non-parent custodian, and half of the self-employment taxes for self-employed parents.
The court can impute income to parents
If a parent is unemployed, under-employed or dishonest in reporting gross income, the Georgia law allows the court to assign income to that parent. Previously, Georgia courts could impute minimum-wage earnings from a 40-hour workweek to an under-employed parent. However, a recent 2018 law change gives more discretion to the court. The court can now look at many factors to arrive at a more accurate amount to impute, including:
- Earnings history of the under-employed parent
- Average market wages in the industry the parent works
- Available jobs the under-employed parent qualifies for in local area
- The under-employed parent’s assets and living situation
Can a parent pay less or more than guideline support?
Georgia child support law presumes that payment of the guideline support amount is in the best interest of the child. However, if a parent can show that the guideline amount is unjust or inappropriate, the court may agree to deviate to a higher or lower amount of support. In Georgia, there are mandatory and non-mandatory deviations under the law. The two mandatory deviations are work-related child care expenses and health care premiums. Each parent will be ordered to contribute their ratio toward those expenses.
Non-mandatory deviations can be ordered in the discretion of the court. A court can agree to adjust the basic child support obligation for many reasons, including:
- Child’s extraordinary health care, education and/or activity expenses
- Parent’s payment or receipt of alimony
- Parent will face economic hardship paying guideline amount
- Extraordinary travel expenses for non-custodial parent to exercise parenting time
- Payment of life insurance policy for benefit of the child
And any other reason a parent can claim the court should deviate from the guidelines because it’s in the child’s best interest. If a parent feels the guidelines are unjust, or is dealing with a co-parent who feels the guidelines are unjust, they should first consult with an experienced Georgia family law attorney. That attorney can evaluate their case and help ensure a parent is paying or receiving a fair amount under the law.
For more information on this area, see our overview of family law.
Created byВ FindLaw’s team of legal writers and editors | Last updated March 21, 2018
Child support is assistance (usually financial), which is owed by parents to and for the benefit of a child. The state of Georgia requires parents to provide adequate support for their minor children. A parent can’t waive a child’s right to receive child support.
How to Begin the Child Support Process
Either parent can begin the application process for Child Support Services by contacting the Georgia Department of Human Resources, Division of Child Support Services. A parent can apply for Child Support Services online or in person at a local child support office.
Who Can Collect Child Support?
Any custodial parent (person having the child more than half the time) or caretaker of a child can collect regular child support from a parent who should contribute. Once you complete the application process, the Georgia Department of Human Resources, Division of Child Support Services will assist you with obtaining initial child support payments, or in the collection of back payments (called arrearages ).
Another way to start the child support process is by hiring a family law attorney or contacting your local legal aid provider. This generally involves a private lawsuit against the other parent.
What Guidelines will the Judge Follow to Determine Child Support?
Georgia uses an “income-sharing” approach to determine the amount of support. Basically, the amount each parent will have to pay in child support will be based upon both the mother and fatherвЂ™s joint incomes, minus any deductions.
What Does a Court Consider “Income?”
The Court uses a complicated mathematical guideline to determine how much support the non-custodial parent must pay to the custodial parent. First, a judge will determine the gross annual income of both parents and runs the numbers through a support calculator.
This is only a guideline and every case is unique and different. A Georgia court can look at salary, interest, trust income, tips, commission, and other sources to determine a parent’s income. You have to pay child support even if you receive unemployment benefits, disability benefits, Social Security payments, or worker’s compensation payments.
Deviating from Georgia’s Child Support Guidelines
The Guidelines are just that: guidelines. A court may increase or decrease the child support order depending on the individual circumstances of both parents and the best interests of the child. Factors the court looks at include:
Noncustodial parents in Georgia are expected to provide for their children. The amount they pay is based on their earnings, the income of the custodial parent, and the needs of the child. Noncustodial parents are required to provide their children with financial support until they reach the age of 18, and custodial parents cannot waive their right to receive child support. Child support payments are not adjusted automatically to reflect increases in the cost of living, but they may be modified from time to time if the needs of the child or the incomes of the parents change.
How child support is calculated in Georgia
Georgia used to base child support based only on the noncustodial parent’s income, but state guidelines now advise the judges who make these decisions to also consider what the custodial parent earns. It is important to bear in mind that judges have the discretion to deviate from the guidelines and increase or decrease child support. This often happens when the child has special needs and more money is needed to cover health care and educational expenses.
Modifying child support orders in Georgia
Custodial or noncustodial parents in Georgia who wish to modify a child support order can pay a $100 fee to have the Georgia Division of Child Support Services review their case. The fee is waived for parents who receive Medicaid or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits. Once the review process is completed, which can take up to six months, the DCSS may recommend that payments be increased, decreased or remain the same. Past due child support payments cannot be modified.
Preparing for a child support review
Child support reviews are completed more quickly when DCSS personnel are provided with all of the documents they need in a timely manner. Before contacting the agency, parents should gather their tax returns, recent pay stubs and bills for child-related expenses like health insurance premiums and daycare fees. Parents who wish to modify a child support order based on a significant change in circumstances must be able to demonstrate that the change is likely to be permanent.
Helping Unrepresented Families Put Together the Pieces
“Providing problem-solving services for separating and divorcing families is a community responsibility, not just a judicial responsibility. The welfare of the entire community especially its children – is impacted by how the members of the reorganized family relate to each other.” -FAMILY COURT REVIEW, Vol. 51, No.3, July 2013
Information about Local Attorneys available to be hired in famly cases.*
Forms, Education and lnformation for:
- ADULT NAME CHANGE
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*The Family Law Resource Center and Staff will not provide legal advice which should be sought from an attorney who represents you.
What To Bring?
Proof or Documentsof income showing how much and where you get money you live on, for example:
Paystubs, Tax Returns, W2s, 1099, Receipts, Disability, Unemployment, Public benefits, child support, alimony, gifts, rent paid to you, tips, cash payments.
Copies of any papers you have already filed and prior orders that may affect your case.
The Other Party if you can work together and you want to file an UNCONTESTED case.
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Under Georgia family law, both parties in a lawsuit can seek to modify or overturn a court’s final order.
The decisions that courts make affect all aspects of a divorce case including child custody and visitation, the separation of marital property, and alimony.
You can also appeal a child support order, helping you secure an agreement that meets the needs of your child while supporting your financial wellbeing
Understanding the appeals process helps you choose the right legal strategies to appeal a child support order. Consulting with a family law attorney is the first step to getting the outcome you want.
The Appeals Process in Georgia
An appeal is just one of the ways to review a family law court’s decision. But in order to appeal a court order, you need to demonstrate that there was some error in law or fact.
Conflicts of interest and the failure to adhere to court procedures may also be used as grounds for your appeal.
Errors in facts can occur when evidence or testimony is omitted or when certain facts were considered that should have been left out.
Failure to interpret the law correctly may allow you to appeal the court’s decision on child support.
Appealing Child Support Orders
Appealing a child support order can be a complex process that leaves both parties unsure about what to do.
Georgia divorce cases typically involve temporary orders that direct each party on issues related to alimony, child custody, and child support. These orders are enforced during the proceedings until a final order has been made.
In some cases, both parties may make temporary agreements on these and other issues. But once a final order has been established, both parties must agree to follow its terms.
If you appeal the final divorce decree, the temporary child support order will remain in place until the appeal process is completed. The final order will not be enforced until your appeal is finalized.
Avoiding Common Mistakes During an Appeal
Working with an experienced appellate attorney who understands family law is critical to your success in appealing a child support order.
An appeal doesn’t give you an opportunity to retry your case. So neither party may submit new evidence during the appeals process.
Instead, the appellate court reviews your case to determine if any errors in law or fact were made in the original court case.
There are rules that must be considered and followed when appealing a court order. Knowing how to navigate the appeals process prevents common mistakes that cause appeals to be dismissed.
You must file a Notice of Appeal of a child support order within 30 days after the divorce decree has been finalized.
The notice must outline the reasons for your appeal while providing information related to your case. Your attorney can help you gather and submit transcripts and other documents that will be reviewed by the appellate court.
Your success in appealing a court decision depends on your ability to demonstrate errors made by the lower courts. Disagreeing with a court’s decision does not justify your motion to appeal.
An appellate attorney can review your case to help you determine the best options in getting the legal outcome you need to protect you and your family.
Tips On How To Modify Child Support Orders
In Georgia, the Law is very clear on how to Modify Child Support but modifying an original child support order can still be confusing for many parents that are not familiar with Georgia Family Law.
This is the reason that parents often decide not to bother with modifying child support orders even after their financial circumstances have changed to their disadvantage.
You should always consider interviewing a local Family Law Attorney that is familiar with all current laws and he/or she can make it a fairly quick process.
Often you will find that hiring a local Attorney to help you modify child support is not as costly as you think, particularly if it is possible to find a lawyer that will handle your modification at an agreed upon flat fee. Attorney Sean R. Whitworth (East Cobb Attorney) offers Flat Fees for all Family Law Services including child support modification.
If you want to modify Child Support in the State of Georgia there are some things to keep in mind.
Child Support doesn’t modify automatically
Just because your individual circumstances change does not mean that your responsibility for the court-ordered child support payments change automatically. A reduction in income or loss of job does not automatically trigger a modification.
For example; once your child reached the age of emancipation (18 in many states), many believe the child support payments end automatically. This is not the case.
This is also true when you or the other parent have a change of income. A pay cut, loss of income, or even a promotion can be grounds to modify a child support order.
It is vital you and the other parent are proactive in notifying the courts about the change of circumstances by filing a modification of child support. Though modification documentation can be found online for free or for a low fee, we do not recommend to file unrepresented.
When you modify Child Support it is rarely retroactive
When you need to modify child support due to a change of circumstances, it is imperative that you file as soon as you are aware of these changes.
In most cases, once the modifications are ordered, they will only go back to the date the request was filed.
For example; you lose your job on the 2nd of February but don’t file a motion to modify until March third, generally, the court will only consider modifying the child support order to the date the modification was filed.
In some cases, exceptions can be made. In some states a statute allows a child support order to be retroactively modified if a parent is paying less child support because of extensive parenting time. In Georgia this is not the case.
Do Not Agree to Modify Child Support Out-Of-Court
Going to court can be a painful and strenuous process, both financially and mentally. However, you should Always formally modify your child support order when circumstances change.
Formally modifying your child support simply means, filing the modifications through the court system rather than coming to an agreement with your ex out of court.
Though you may get along with your ex and co-parent wonderfully, relying on a verbal agreement means risking a contempt charge if “you haven’t been paying the court-ordered amount of child support.”
Circumstances between yourself and your ex can always change. One disagreement can lead to your ex-spouse filing a court order for contempt. Going through the court system is the only way to modify child support legally.
Keep Accurate Records
Keep extensive records of your Divorce, even after it has been finalized in court.
It is also crucial to keep accurate records of “your child support payments, medical reimbursements, daycare costs, etc.”
It can be easy as a busy working parent, to fall behind on keeping track of these things. However, if you don’t, and your ex decides to state they haven’t been receiving payments; you will be left to the misery of the court.
We highly recommend you find a system, of keeping records, that works best for you and your schedule. Doing so may mean openly sharing your financing with the government via a “withholding order.” The benefit is an efficient way of tracking your child support payments.
You can also set up an automatic payment with your bank with a memo to ensure documentation of that shows the amount was for child support. Try to avoid making payments with cash or money order without a signed receipt from the other parent. If you are paying for daycare or medical expenses, make sure to get a written receipt or keep records of automated payments for your protection.
Enter Records Into Evidence
The most detailed and accurate records will do you no good if you can’t enter them as evidence.
The rules of evidence can be extremely complicated, so it’s best to consult with a family law attorney such as Attorney Sean R. Whitworth to be sure that your modification is handled properly.
Contact Attorney Sean R. Whitworth at 770-490-0921 or Book Online by submitting the form below.
Child support laws are designed to make sure that minor children get the financial support they need from both parents, even when the parents are no longer together. Every state’s child support laws are slightly different, so if you have questions about child support in the State of Georgia, contact a Carrollton family law attorney.
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Calculation Of Child Support In Georgia
The Georgia legislature made updates in 2007 to child support formulas. Georgia currently follows the “income shares” model of child support calculation. First, both parents need to determine their incomes. Income from all sources counts. Consequently, this includes wages, bonuses, commissions, self-employment income, pensions, Social Security payments, unemployment benefits, worker’s compensation payments, and investment income. A parent who is found to be deliberately unemployed or underemployed may have income imputed. In other words, a court may calculate what the parent should earn, based on their age, education level, and skills.
After the total income of both parents is determined, the total child support obligation, based on the parents; combined income, is found on a table found in the Georgia Code. Each parent’s individual obligation has a calculation based on the parent’s share of their combined income. For example, if the parents’ combined income is $5,000 per month, the total child support obligation for one child would be $917. If both parents’ incomes are the same, each would be responsible for one-half of the total support obligation.
Finally, many factors can affect the end amount owed by the non-custodial parent. Therefore, which parent pays for child care, insurance, medical bills, and other expenses for the child can make a difference.
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How Your Custody Arrangement Can Affect Child Support
There are two types of child custody in Georgia: legal custody, which determines who may make legal, medical, educational, and other decisions for the child, and physical custody, which determines where the child will live. Parents may have sole legal or physical custody, or joint legal or physical custody. Child support amounts may have an adjustment according to the amount of time the child is in the physical custody of each parent. If one parent has sole physical custody, the child is with that parent 100% of the time. In the example above, the non-custodial parent would have an obligation to pay one-half of the $917 total support obligation to the custodial parent. If the non-custodial parent spends more time with the child than regular visitation, the amount of child support may be decreased.
Can Carrollton Child Support Lawyers Modify Child Support?
Child support in Georgia is not set forever. In other words, changes in the circumstances for either parent may justify a modification of a support order. Some circumstances which may justify modification include:
- Loss of a job
- Illness or disability of the child
- A significant increase in income for either party
A Carrollton Child Support Lawyer can help if you believe modification of your child support amount is necessary.
Georgia Child Support Enforcement
Georgia Division of Child Support Services, a branch of the Department of Human Services, enforces child support orders. The court may take action against a parent who refuses to pay court-ordered child support such as:
- Withholding the amount from the obligor’s paycheck, unemployment benefits, or worker’s compensation payments.
- Taking money from state or federal income tax refunds.
- Suspend the obligor’s driver’s license or professional licenses.
- Place a lien on the obligor’s property.
- Find the obligor in contempt of court, with fines and possible jail time as penalties.
Moffit Law, LLC, a Carrollton Child Support Lawyer, can assist custodial parents in collecting child support. Firstly, they would file an action for contempt of court. Secondly, they would initiate the necessary procedures for the garnishment of wages, placing liens on the property, and then intercept income tax refund checks.
Enforcing Out Of State Orders In Georgia
Georgia Division of Child Support Services enforces child support orders from other states. This works just like the order from a Georgia court. Georgia’s support orders are still enforceable in any other state if the obligor moves. Subsequently, the Federal Parent Locator Service can provide assistance to find the non-custodial parent.
When Does A Support Obligation End?
The obligation to pay child support ends when the child reaches the age of 18, unless the child is still a full-time high school student, in which case it can continue until the child reaches the age of 20. If a child is handicap and unable to live on their own, the child support obligation may continue past the age of 18. Consequently, the obligation may last as long as the child lives.
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Talk To A Carrollton Family Law Attorney
It is always best to have an experienced child support attorney on your side, especially when the other parent has an attorney. In other words, an attorney can help uncover hidden assets and income sources if the other parent is trying to minimize their support obligation. If you believe the other parent is trying to remain unemployed for the purpose of avoiding a child support obligation or increasing your obligation, you will need the advice of a child support expert. In some cases, the other parent may have a court order to pay some or all of your attorney’s fees.
Contact Carrollton Family Law Attorney Tyler Moffitt today for a free consultation.
When one or both parents file for divorce in Georgia, the court takes special care to protect and advocate for the child or children of the marriage. In order to do so, the Georgia Child Support Commission has created Child Support Guidelines and a Child Support Worksheet to help navigate the calculation of child support. O.C.G.A § 19-6-15 outlines the guidelines for determining the amount of child support the non-custodial parent must pay. These guidelines are designed to ensure that the child receives the same level of financial support that they would receive if their parents were still married. The guidelines are also meant to ensure that the support amount is reasonable and sustainable for the parents.
In determining the presumptive amount for child support, the court takes into account all income, including salaries, variable income, military pay, and Social Security benefits for each parent. The court also has the ability to impute income if records don’t exist or the parents did not provide them. The court can also impute income for a parent that is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed. These calculations and others set forth in O.C.G.A § 19-6-15 (f-h) set the baseline, or basic child support obligations for child support in the case.
What Are Deviations from The Basic Child Support Obligation?
All families are unique, however. Therefore, the basic child support obligation can be increased or decreased, based on several discretionary “deviations.” O.C.G.A. § 19-6-15(i) outlines several deviations that can be considered that may increase or decrease the amount of support required.
For example, the deviations account for both high and low income factors. The income table in the Georgia Child Support Guidelines stops at $30,000 per month. For parents who make more than that amount, the court assigns the highest amount listed on the table and then reserves the right to adjust up from there in order to maintain the same standard of living as would occur if the child remained in an intact home. In the case of a low income parent, the court will assess the income and determine an amount no less than $100 per month (with an additional $50 per month for each additional child supported).
Deviations from fringe benefits such as health and life insurance can also be considered. If one parent is providing health insurance for the child, or life insurance on either or both parents with the child as beneficiary, the cost of that insurance could be deducted from their support requirement.
The federal Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit can also sway a parent’s support amount up or down depending on which parent receives the credit. If the noncustodial parent receives the credit, their support amount may be increased to accommodate for that benefit.
If My Children Relocate to A Different State Can My Visitation Related Travel Expenses Reduce My Child Support in Georgia?
If the two parents live in different areas of the country, the noncustodial parent may be eligible for a deviation in their support amount to account for the expenses required to travel to the child for visitation. The awarding of this deviation will depend on the parent’s overall financial circumstances, the cost of visitation related travel for the non-custodial parent, as well as which parent relocated and the reason for that relocation.
What Other Factors Can Impact The Amount of Child Support in Georgia?
Certain other financial support provided by the noncustodial parent can also be factored in as a deviation. Alimony payments can decrease the amount of child support required, as can mortgage payments if the payments are made on a home that is provided as primary residence for the custodial parent and the child.
As each family’s financial requirements are unique, the court has made allowances for other extraordinary expenses can be used to adjust a child support requirement. These can include educational expenses, costs of the child’s extracurricular activities, costs for the child’s medical needs, or any other factor that the parents may choose to bring forward.
The Georgia courts have determined that child support calculations be based in a way that is fair to both parents, does not pose a financial burden to either the custodial or non-custodial parent. But more importantly, their calculations are meant to provide for the children who are caught in the middle. Section (1)(A) of O.C.G.A. § 19-6-15 states, “In deviating from the presumptive amount of child support, consideration shall be given to the best interest of the child for whom the support under this Code section is being determined.” The court recognizes that the best way to provide for the child is to create a reasonable and attainable child support award that allows both parents to flourish financially while still providing their child with a stable quality of life.
Although the Georgia Child Support Guidelines are very detailed and the Georgia Child Support Calculator is very instructive, the use of deviations make the calculation of child support in a divorce or an action for modification of child support far from straightforward.
Calculating child support in a divorce or an action for modification of support or modification of custody is fact specific to each family. The lawyers at Buckhead Family Law are here to assist you with your case and help this be a positive turning point for your family. Schedule a consultation by calling at 404-600-1403.
Laws & Legislation
The IV-D program is grounded in both federal and state statutes as well as judicial rules, laws and procedures. The Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) within the Department of Human Resources is the state agency charged with administering the IV-D program in the state of Georgia. The federal statutory basis for the program is U.S. Public Law 93-647, Title IV-D of the Social Security Act. The state statutory basis is in Title 19 of the Official Code of Georgia.
The policies and procedures that govern most aspects of the child support program in Georgia are the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) in 45 CFR, Parts 200 to 499; Title 19 of the Georgia Code; and the Department of Human Resources Rules 290-7-1. Additionally, existing policies and procedures may be affected by case law as well as administrative court and judicial proceedings.
The Title IV-D Child Support Enforcement Program was created in 1975 to establish uniform procedures and rules for providing child support enforcement services nationally.
The Department of Human Resources, Office of Child Support Enforcement administers Georgia’s child support enforcement program through State Staff as well as Cooperative Agreements. OCSE provides child support services at the local level to establish paternity and child support orders, and enforce support obligations for approximately one-quarter of Georgia’s children. To collect unpaid support from a noncustodial parent, OCSE may attach the person’s income, suspend a driver’s or professional license, seize a bank account or other financial assets, intercept a Federal or State income tax refund, intercept lottery winnings, and report arrears to consumer credit reporting agencies.
The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Cites:
45 CFR 303.6 and 303.100
The United States Code Cites:
42 USC 652(a)(11)
42 USC 654(9)(E)
42 USC 659(f) 666(b)(6), (8), (c)(1)(F)
42 USC 666(c)
Official Code of Georgia Cites:
Georgia Laws can be found at the Georgia General Assembly Web Site:
When parents live in different states or one parent relocates with a child to another state, enforcing or modifying custody orders can become complex.
At the Atlanta law office of Jody A. Miller , we help clients throughout north Georgia enforce and modify their child custody orders in interstate situations.
Interstate Child Custody Orders
Interstate jurisdiction over child custody matters is complex. Whether a state has jurisdiction to make custody orders depends on where you are in the process.
If a custody order has not been issued by a court and the parents live in separate states, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act will define which state has jurisdiction to make initial child custody decisions. Under the act, Georgia has jurisdiction over custody if:
- Georgia is the child’s home state, meaning the child lived in Georgia for the previous six months.
- The child and one parent have significant connections with Georgia.
- The child is currently in Georgia and is at risk of abuse or neglect should he or she return to his or her home state.
Once a child custody order has been issued by a court, that state will retain jurisdiction over custody matters indefinitely. If the original custody order was made in Georgia, then Georgia will have continuing jurisdiction to make modifications. As long as one parent remains in Georgia, generally no other state may modify an existing child custody order made by a Georgia court.
Enforcing An Existing Child Custody Order In Another State
Under the full faith and credit clause, decisions made by a state with proper jurisdiction must be respected by all other states. This means that when a Georgia court properly issues a child custody order, that order must be respected in other states.
However, enforcing Georgia child custody or support orders in other states can be difficult. Even within Georgia, jurisdictional issues arise. When parents live in separate counties, the rules regarding which county court governs are complex.
Depending on the circumstances involved, petitions for enforcement may be filed in Georgia. In other cases, you will be required to file the petition for enforcement in the state where your child’s other parent resides. If you or your child’s other parent no longer resides in Georgia, you need an experienced attorney to help you enforce your orders.
Contact An Experienced Attorney
Interstate child support and custody jurisdiction issues are complex. If you need help modifying or enforcing a Georgia child custody order, contact experienced family law lawyer Jody A. Miller today at 678-905-7562 or toll free at 866-319-0924 .
Georgia law distinguishes between a biological father and a legally recognized father. Simply fathering a child does not automatically give one the rights of a parent. Georgia law puts a large amount of emphasis on whether the parents of the child were married at the time of birth, or whether the parents ended up getting married after the child was born.
A Child Born Within the Confines of a Marriage
Under Georgia law, if a child is born to a woman who is married, the law presumes that the father of the child is the husband. The law considers what is in the best interest of the child. Thus, if a mother has a child within a marriage whose father is not the husband, it is crucial that action is taken immediately. Otherwise, the court may refuse to give the biological father rights in the life of the child.
If you are the father of a child who was born to a woman while she was married to another man, it is imperative that you take action immediately. While there is no definitive time after which a court will not recognize paternal rights, it is clear that the courts view a father who asserts his rights earlier in better favor than one who waits. In asserting your paternity rights, the help of an experienced family law attorney could make all the difference. Therefore, it is important that you contact an attorney so that they may help you with your case. To learn more about the process of legitimating a child, click here.
If you are the other man in this situation, in other words, if you know or think that your wife has had a child during your marriage with another man, you may need to consider your rights as well. It could be important that you have an attorney on your side to ensure that your rights are protected.
Custody and Visitation
When it comes to asserting paternal rights, such as getting custody of a child or merely getting visitation, asserting your rights is the key. Parents who are married share the rights to the child equally. However, if the parents of a child are not married, rights become more complicated. If the mother of the child is unmarried, the father must initiate a court proceeding to legitimize the child in order to assert rights such as visitation and custody. Without the procedure, the mother has total control of the child and, as such, can deny the father the opportunity to see the child if she so chooses, at least until the court has recognized the father.
While a father must legitimize his rights before he is given any legally recognized right to visit the child or have custody, a mother may be given child support without such legitimation.
To learn more about what might happen during your case, click here.
What Should You Do?
If you or someone you know is struggling with the issue of paternity and the rights that accompany being the father of a child, contacting an experienced attorney is an important first step. The attorneys at Edwards and Associates may be able to help you with your case and ensure you are given all the rights that you deserve.
In determining an amount of child support, Georgia courts usually use Georgia Child Support Guidelines. Child support shall be calculated based on the Flat Percentage of Income Model. This approach takes into account the number of minor children and the gross income of the obligor (the parent who is ordered to make payments). Thus, if there is one child, the parent pays 17%-23% of his or her gross income, and, respectively, the percentage is higher if there are more children.
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Georgia Retroactive Child Support
Child support is always an issue of contention for couples who are separated and have kids together. Some fathers are not always in their children’s lives for various reasons. Some may not have known about their children’s existences, or some did not have the financial capabilities to provide financial assistance to their children. Nonetheless, the mothers may ask those fathers to pay back child support once the father can afford to do so.
The million-dollar question is whether these fathers are legally obligated to pay back child support.
- The Law in Georgia
- Can I Modify My Child Support Payments?
- Consulting a Family Law Attorney
The Law in Georgia
Technically, fathers in Georgia do not need to pay back child support. Georgia does not have a law to enforce fathers who were in financial hardship to pay back child support. Georgia only have a proactive law where the court can order the fathers to pay future child support as of the date of the court order.
However, since the purpose of child support is to enhance the well being of a child, Georgia does have a “past due expenditures” law. This law dictates that the father may be responsible for costs incurred during and post- pregnancy.
Can I Modify My Child Support Payments?
Yes, but only if one of the parents have a 25% change in their income. For example, if the custodial parent lost her job, then she can file a court order to ask for an increase in child support from the noncustodial parent.
Consulting a Family Law Attorney
If you have concerns about your child support payments, please consult a Georgia child support lawyer. An attorney can help you get more child support or reduce your child support obligations. If your expenses are miscalculated, the court may enter an order with unfair amounts.
If you’re in the midst of a divorce (or considering one), child support can be one of the most concerning matters. Will you be able to effectively care for your children as a single parent?
The good news is that Georgia follows a formula that’s available to anyone.
The slightly more complicated news is that certain factors (like shared parenting time and specific additional expenses) may allow for deviations from the formula. We’ll talk more about those below.
We’ve broken the process down so you can understand how it works.
What is child support?
Child support is a recurring payment from the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent. The purpose of child support payments is to ensure the continued welfare of a minor child (or children).
Child support can be ordered by a court. Or both parents can voluntarily enter into a child support agreement. That could happen through negotiations or divorce mediation.
This payment is intended to be used for the care of a minor child in the custodial parent’s care. Generally, child support obligations end once a child reaches the age of majority. In Georgia, that’s 18 years old or upon completion of high school, whichever is later.
While most of us think of child support as something divorced fathers pay to mothers, that’s not always the case. Queer families and non-traditional division of labor in some families has shaken up that norm.
In most situations, child support still flows from the father to the mother. But technically the non-custodial parent pays child support to the custodial parent. And that’s not always from a father to a mother.
One note: Georgia does not require child support to continue after high school. Parents can choose to include college expenses in a negotiated divorce settlement.
How to calculate child support in Georgia
In Georgia, child support is based on a formula that anyone has access to. The Administrative Office of the Courts publishes an online child support calculator. The courts use the calculator as a starting point to set child support payments.
The calculator takes into account the incomes of both parents, child care expenses, and the cost of health insurance for the child. Sometimes the court considers other expenses.
The calculator calculates the amount of each parent’s responsibility for child support. But only the non-custodial parent pays child support to the custodial parent.
We’ll go through how it works in detail below:
Georgia free child support calculator tool
Anyone can access and use Georgia’s free child support calculator tool, though you’ll have to create an account.
It’s important to remember that entering numbers into an online tool sounds straightforward. The conflicts around child support often come from exactly what the numbers should be, and which ones count.
Income evaluation for child support in Georgia
Child support calculations in Georgia begin with the combined adjusted gross income of the two parents. Then the calculator divides that combined income based on the percentage that each parent contributes to the total.
For example, if Parent A earns $2000 per month, and Parent B earns $8000, Parent B brings in 80% of the total $10,000 income.
That percentage is used in the next step to calculate the child support obligation.
Basic child support obligation in Georgia
Attorneys used to use Georgia’s basic child support obligation (BCSO) table to determine the base monthly amount required to care for a child. That amount depends on the parents’ combined monthly income.
Now the calculator does those calculations, but it’s helpful to understand how it’s coming to the numbers it spits out.
For instance, the Parents A and B above make a combined $10,000 per month. If they have one child, the BCSO table says they are responsible for a combined $1,259 in child support. If they have two children, that number increases to $1,749.
Because the purpose of the child support calculator is to determine how much the non-custodial parent pays, there’s a second step. The base child support amount must be divided between the two parents based on the percentages determined above.
If Parent B brings in 80% of the income, Parent B’s share of the child support is 80%. So if they have one child, they would multiply $1,259 by .80 to get $1,007.20. That’s their obligation. Parent A’s would be $251.80.
But the calculation doesn’t stop there.
The calculator considers health insurance costs and child care costs. Those are divided between the parents, and the parent paying that expense gets credit for that cost.
What happens when you calculate the BCSO table, health insurance costs, and child care costs?
You get the Presumptive Amount of Child Support.
So, in our previous example, let’s say Parent B pays $200 in monthly health insurance premiums for the child. That cost is divided based on the above percentages. Parent B is responsible for 80% of that premium: $160. Parent A is responsible for 20% of that premium: $40.
Because Parent B pays the entirety of the health insurance premium, Parent B gets a credit for that $200.
So Parent B’s Presumptive Amount of Child Support is calculated like this: $1,007 + $160 – $200 = $967.
If Parent B is the non-custodial parent, that’s the amount they would be required to pay in monthly child support payments.
Additional factors that affect child support in Georgia
When the court considers another factor in the amount of child support required, that’s called a deviation.
Georgia courts allow deviations for things like:
- Hardship because of low income
- Costs associated with the child’s dental or vision insurance
- Costs associated with the child’s medical treatments
- Travel expenses related to parenting time
The court could treat a deviation like the calculator treats payments for health insurance or child care. The judge divides the expense between the parents based on their income percentages.
Or the court might simply increase or decrease one parent’s child support obligation dollar-for-dollar.
Amount of parenting time
One additional reason for deviation is the amount of parenting time provided by each parent. The calculation assumes that the custodial parent is providing the majority of the parenting time.
Some parents’ custody agreements have a closer to 50/50 time split between the two parents. In that case, the court may decide that a more equal child support obligation is appropriate.
You must include the child support worksheet from the child support calculator in any settlement agreement you provide to the court.
In general, it’s important to remember that the court’s main concern in determining child support is the best interests of the child.
Calculating child support in an uncontested divorce
In an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse agree together on the appropriate amount of child support. Your attorney will help you use the online calculator and consider any additional factors. Together, you’ll decide on a number that best suits your situation.
The judge will review that number to determine whether it’s reasonable and in the best interests of the child. In most cases, judges accept the number agreed to by the parents.
At Porchlight, we work with divorcing parents to amicably resolve questions of parenting time and child support. Contact us to learn how we can help you.