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How Do Child Support Deviations Impact How Child Support Is Calculated In My Georgia Divorce or Action for Modification of Child Support?

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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.

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