To help ensure that children have financial support after a divorce or relationship breakup, Georgia law establishes child support guidelines to determine awards to provide for the children. These awards follow a complicated set of calculations to determine the appropriate amount of support for the family’s circumstances. But there are some basic points that are outside the realm of detailed calculations.
Georgia’s child support guidelines laws are found in the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA). It is section 19-6-15 or § 19-6-15. Code on enforcement of child support is found in other statutes. OCGA code sections can be found with a link on the Georgia General Assembly (legislature) site. Go to: http://www.legis.ga.gov/en-US/default.aspx
Click the link on the left for “Georgia Code.” It will take you to a site for LexisNexis. In the search box, enter “19-6-15”. The final link to § 19-6-15 will pop up.
Or Rogers Economics has downloaded code for this section through the 2019 legislative session. Click here for a pdf of OCGA § 19-6-15.
Basically, child support is paid by the noncustodial parent to the custodial parent. So, when the court determines which parent gets physical custodial of the child, it also is determining who is paying child support. The amount of child support is determined separately. The custodial parent in most cases is the parent with more than 50 percent of time with the child.
For more detail on definitions, Georgia Code in § 19-6-15 defines “custodial parent” and “noncustodial parent” for child support purposes. The custodial parent receives child support while the noncustodial parent pays child support to the custodial parent.
Here are the definitions of custodial parent and noncustodial parent from statute:
. . . .
(9) “Custodial parent” means the parent with whom the child resides more than 50 percent of the time. When a custodial parent has not been designated or when a child resides with both parents an equal amount of time, the court shall designate the custodial parent as the parent with the lesser support obligation and the other parent as the noncustodial parent. When the child resides equally with both parents and neither parent can be determined as owing a greater amount than the other, the court shall determine which parent to designate as the custodial parent for the purpose of this Code section.
. . . .
(14) “Noncustodial parent” means the parent with whom the child resides less than 50 percent of the time or the parent who has the greater payment obligation for child support. When the child resides equally with both parents and neither parent can be determined as owing a lesser amount than the other, the court shall determine which parent to designate as the noncustodial parent for the purpose of this Code section.
There are two broad categories of expenses covered by child support:
A “presumptive” child support order has 3 parts and can include expenses for:
By law, all presumptive expenses must be included in the presumptive award. That is, IF the case has child-care expenses and/or health insurance premiums for coverage of the child, then these expenses must be included. Obviously, if they do not exist in a case, they are not included.
BCSO expenses are always included in the presumptive award. BCSO expenses are those typical for the parents’ level of income. These expenses include spending on the child for: housing, food, clothing, medical (up to $250 per child per year), daily transportation, entertainment, and special activities.
The court has authority to make an award that is higher or lower than the presumptive award. If the court goes outside the presumptive award, it is a deviation award. That is, the court deviates away from the presumptive amount. This is likely to occur whenever the strict application of the guidelines would be unfair to a child or one of the parents. Some circumstances could involve an underpayment for support for the appropriate quality of life for the child or a too high award resulting in financial strain on the noncustodial parent.
Georgia Code lists some factors that can be the basis for a deviation. The listed factors are:
The “nonspecific” deviation means that one can ask for any deviation not listed if it is reasonable, documented, and follows procedure.
Specifics in Code on deviations can be found in OCGA § 19-6-15(i).
Most of these listed deviation factors are expense related. Income factors can also be considered. Income factors include examples such as extraordinary debt or a parent’s extraordinary medical expenses.
Key points about deviations are:
Remember, Rogers Economics specializes in helping to document deviations, creating economic exhibits, and assisting in making sure procedure is followed.
Fortunately, doing the calculations is not necessary. Georgia provides an online child support calculator for the child support worksheet. The calculator does the hard work—a party wanting to produce a worksheet to submit to court mainly must have the appropriate input numbers available.
But what are the key steps?
The key idea is that all presumptive costs are pro-rated between the parents according to shares of combined adjusted gross income. Adjusted means that gross income is adjusted for self-employment taxes (if some income is from self employment) and for costs related to other dependent children (such as from pre-existing child support orders or other children living with a parent). Any approved deviation costs are added to presumptive costs and the court likely will pro-rate the costs but at times may tilt the deviation cost more to one parent for various reasons.
How long one pays child support is known as duration of duty of support. This varies by state but in Georgia duration of duty of support is found in § 19-6-15.
(e) Duration of child support responsibility. The duty to provide support for a minor child shall continue until the child reaches the age of majority, dies, marries, or becomes emancipated, whichever first occurs; provided, however, that, in any temporary, final, or modified order for child support with respect to any proceeding for divorce, separate maintenance, legitimacy, or paternity entered on or after July 1, 1992, the court, in the exercise of sound discretion, may direct either or both parents to provide financial assistance to a child who has not previously married or become emancipated, who is enrolled in and attending a secondary school, and who has attained the age of majority before completing his or her secondary school education, provided that such financial assistance shall not be required after a child attains 20 years of age.
Yes, you can ask for a modification if circumstances exist for getting a modification hearing. Timing is the first issue.
If you have never requested a modification, then there is no required waiting period.
If you have previously had a modification hearing, then generally you must wait two years since the entry of the child support order.
There are exceptions to the two-year rule waiting period after a prior modification.
A noncustodial parent has failed to exercise the court ordered visitation;
A noncustodial parent has exercised a greater amount of visitation than was provided in the court order; or
The motion to modify is based upon an involuntary loss of income of income of 25 percent or more.
To be entitled to a hearing on modification, one has to prove to the court that there has a material change. The showing of a change in income or financial status or a change in the needs of the child is a threshold requirement for modification. One does not have to prove all of these or even a change of income and a change in financial circumstances. One only has to prove a change in one of these issues.
Rogers Economics has written a more detailed memo on modification issues which can be found by clicking here.
For a pdf version of this FAQ on Georgia Child Support Determination, click here.