When spouses with children divorce one another (or when partners with children separate) in Georgia, it’s not uncommon for the court to order one spouse to pay child support to another. Although Georgia courts apply specific guidelines when calculating child support, these matters are often complicated, and legal arguments may play a critical role in ensuring child support orders are fair for everyone involved.
At Weiss Family Law, we are prepared to offer the guidance you need when divorcing a spouse or separating from a partner with whom you have children. We will apply our decades of experience to assist you in achieving a favorable outcome in regard not only to child support, but to all elements of your finalized divorce or child support-related matter.
The purpose of child support in Georgia is to ensure that children have the financial resources they need to meet their basic needs and to maintain a standard of living that is as close as possible to the one they had before their parents separated or divorced. Child support is intended to cover the costs of:
In Georgia, both parents have a legal responsibility to financially support their children. The court will usually order the non-custodial parent (the parent who has less parenting time) to pay child support to the primary custodial parent (the parent who has more parenting time) to help cover the costs of raising the child.
In 2007, Georgia began using Child Support Guidelines that follow the “income shares” model, by which the parents’ gross incomes are compared to determine how much each should contribute to the support and maintenance of the minor child based on what an average family with comparable combined income would be expected to spend to support the child if they were still together. Each parent’s Basic Child Support Obligation (BCSO) is initially calculated based on their proportional shares of that combined income. This serves as a starting point to determine how much child support the “noncustodial parent” will pay to the “custodial parent.”
Different from how these terms are used with regard to a custody schedule for the child, when calculating child support, these terms may be defined differently. For child support calculations, the “Custodial parent” is generally the parent that the child lives with more than 50% of the time, and the “Noncustodial parent” is generally where the child lives less than 50% of the time. Where a custodial parent is not clearly designated or where a child lives with both parents an equal amount of time, then for purposes of determining child support, the “Custodial parent” will generally be the parent with the lower income and the parent with the higher income will be considered the “Noncustodial parent” with the responsibility of paying child support to the other parent.
In Georgia, child support is calculated using the state’s Child Support Guidelines (per O.C.G.A. § 19-6-15). These guidelines take into consideration several factors, including:
The Georgia Child Support Commission offers an online Georgia Child Support Calculator. This tool may give you a sense of how much child support you or your child’s other parent may be ordered to pay.
However, the results this tool delivers aren’t official, and some of the factors may be in dispute. It’s best to discuss your case with an experienced Georgia child support lawyer for more information about potential outcomes. The Georgia Child Support Commission created the Child Support Worksheet (https://services.georgia.gov/dhr/cspp/do/public/SupportCalc) to help calculate the amount of child support based on each parent’s income as well as various other factors. Weiss Family Law is here to guide you and help you better understand how it works.
The income of both parents is determined by looking at each parent’s gross income, which includes wages, salaries, bonuses, commissions, and other forms of income before taxes or other withholdings.
Once the income of both parents has been determined, the guidelines provide a table that shows the basic child support obligation (BCSO) based on the number of children and the combined income of the parents. This basic obligation can then be adjusted for additional allowed expenses, such as work-related educational and activity expenses, childcare, health insurance, uncovered medical expenses, and/or visitation-related travel expenses (if the parents live far apart).
Be aware, a judge has discretion to deviate from the guidelines in certain circumstances, such as when a parent has a high income or the child has special needs. In some cases, the court may also apply a parenting time deviation, such as if the parents will have equal parenting time.
Under Georgia law, either parent can request a modification of child support if there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the original child support order was issued. A substantial change in circumstances may include changes in:
To request a modification, a parent must file a petition with the court that issued the original child support order. The court will then review the petition and any supporting documentation, such as pay stubs or tax returns, to determine if there has been a substantial change in circumstances. The parties may have to share that information with each other as part of the discovery process.
If the court finds that there has been a substantial change in circumstances, and if the child or one of the parties still lives in Georgia, then it will then recalculate child support using the Georgia Child Support Guidelines.
Whether you or the parent of your child is petitioning the court for a child support modification, strongly consider enlisting the help of a lawyer to help you navigate this often complex process.
A qualified Georgia child support lawyer can assist you in various ways both during and after a divorce or breakup involving minor children. They include:
With years of experience working with clients like yourself, Traci Weiss is ready to offer the legal guidance and representation you deserve. For more information about what a Georgia child support attorney can do for you, contact Weiss Family Law online or call the firm at 770-727-0533.
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