Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Georgia's Child Support Guidelines

In the “good old days” in a Georgia divorce, (i.e. prior to 2007), child support was easier for a divorce lawyer to calculate, and generally was simply based upon a percentage of the noncustodial spouse’s income. And in those “good old days,” the parties in a Georgia divorce had greater flexibility, compared to today, about setting the amount of child support. But all that changed on January 1, 2007 with the passage of the Georgia child support guidelines, (see O.C.G.A. 19-6-15).

Georgia child support is now determined by your divorce attorney in accordance with the Georgia child support guidelines, based upon the gross income of both parties to a divorce. Parties in a Georgia divorce can no longer simply agree about an appropriate child support amount between themselves, unless the parties’ settlement agreement contains findings that a judge determines sufficiently support a deviation from the guidelines’ amount. In other words, in Georgia, the child support guidelines generally rule!

When calculating the child support guidelines, your Georgia divorce lawyer should initially determine each party’s gross income (and you should generally take into account income from just about any source, including your Georgia lottery winnings). If one of the spouses has previously had court-ordered child support for another child, then that spouse may be entitled to a deduction of that amount from his gross income amount.

Next, your divorce attorney will add each parent’s adjusted income figures together to compute the combined adjusted income. Then, your lawyer will locate the basic support obligation amount by referring to a child support obligation table. Next, you calculate the noncustodial spouse’s pro rata share of the basic child support obligation amount. You then make adjustments, in appropriate cases, based upon such things as whether there are health insurance costs (for the child), or whether there are work-related child care costs. In other words, as an example, if the custodial mother has to pay daycare costs, then the guidelines call for an adjustment which will require the noncustodial dad to pay his pro rata share of that daycare cost. Finally, the guidelines also allow some room for deviations from the presumptive guideline amount, in appropriate cases.

This is just a quick review of some of the types of issues which are generally considered in determining child support under Georgia’s new child support guidelines. Hopefully, the child support guidelines generally determine a fair child support amount which equitably takes into account both parties’ incomes. And hopefully, the guidelines will do a better job of ensuring that child support will actually be paid to Georgia’s children of divorce. Maybe the “good old days” when parties could more easily manipulate child support weren’t really so good after all.

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