How is Child Support Calculated in Georgia in 50/50 Custody Arrangements?
Under Georgia’s statutory child support guidelines, the “noncustodial parent”—the party with less than 50% of the parenting time—is typically expected to pay child support to the “custodial parent”—the party with more than 50% of the parenting time. But what happens when the parents enter into a shared custody arrangement where the child spends an equal amount of time with both parties? Even with the guidance of the Child Support Worksheets, the answer is not always clear cut.
Georgia’s Child Support Guidelines
To understand the answer to this question, it helps to know how Georgia Courts view the issue of child support. Georgia’s child support guidelines follow an income share mode, which is designed to have the child support divided between the parties on a pro-rata basis tied to each party’s income. In effect, the guidelines are meant to help equalize income inequalities between the parties and provide the custodial parent with support to account for their greater parenting time share. In practice, this means that child support is calculated based on each party’s income, and that calculation serves as a rebuttal presumption of the basic child support obligation. However, the guidelines also allow deviations from the basic obligation based on a variety of different circumstance, including situations where the children reside with both parties equally:
The child support obligation table is based upon expenditures for a child in intact households. The court may order … a deviation from the presumptive amount of child support when special circumstances make the presumptive amount of child support excessive or inadequate due to extended parenting time as set forth in the order of visitation, the child residing with both parents equally, or visitation rights not being utilized.
O.C.G.A. § 19-6-15. In other words, the guidelines assume that one party will bear the brunt of the expenses associated with raising the children, and the basic child support obligation is intended to relive that burden. But a Court may deviate from that amount where both parties share in time equally.
Child Support in 50/50 Custody Cases
Georgia’s child support guidelines allow for deviations from the presumptive child support amounts in 50/50 custody cases as a parenting time related deviation. However, there is no specific formula for calculating those deviations. It is up to the factfinder (such as the judge or jury) or the agreement of the parties, to determine the appropriate deviation, and to determine how the children’s expenses can be paid.
For example, in situations where one of the parties earns substantially more income than the other, a child support payment flowing from the higher earning party may still be appropriate, even when the parties share an equal amount of parenting time. However, that amount might be lower to account for the fact that the parties are sharing custody. On the other hand, if both parties have roughly equal incomes or earning capacity, then it may be appropriate that neither party pays child support to the other. In either scenario, the parties may agree to split all of the expenses associated with the children evenly (or on a pro-rata bases tied to each party’s income share), including: work-related child care, extracurricular expenses, out-of-pocket and uncovered medical expenses, school tuition, etc.
Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this question, as it is highly dependent on the unique circumstances of your family. If you are considering a 50/50 custody arrangement with your child’s other parent, the custody attorneys at Buckhead Family Law are here to assist you and provide specific guidance on an appropriate child support calculation for your situation. Schedule a consultation by calling at 404-600-1403.