When you are a parent, your kids are the most important part of your life, and you naturally want what’s best for them. When parents divorce, kids are unavoidably affected, especially if the ex-spouses disagree on issues relating to custody and child support.
Partnering with an Albany, GA child support lawyer from Shrable Law Firm is an effective way to ensure you secure child support that meets your child or children’s needs and provides long-term financial stability.
How Georgia courts determine child support
The primary custodial parent, the one who has physical custody of the divorced couple’s child more than 50% of the time, can collect regular child support from the other parent, sometimes called the secondary-custodial parent or the non-custodial parent.
Georgia’s child support guidelines established in Code 19-6-15 take both parents’ income and other financial obligations into consideration when determining support requirements. This structure is called an “income-sharing” approach.
Child support calculations
To determine how much support a non-custodial parent must pay the primary custodian, the courts use the Georgia child support calculator, a complex mathematical formula created by the Georgia Legislative Branch.
|Sign up and access Georgia’s free online child support calculator.
Total gross income
First, the court determines the total gross income of both parents, which includes, but is not limited to, income from:
- Employers, including salary, bonuses, and commissions
- Rental properties
- Severance pay
- Capital gains income
- Social Security
This amount is entered into the child support calculation worksheet along with the number of children requiring support, resulting in a “presumptive” support amount per month per child. Then, based on this joint income amount and the percentage of this income each parent holds, the support amounts for each parent are calculated.
To ensure your child’s needs are met and your financial situation is fairly assessed, secure representation from an Albany family law attorney from Shrable Law Firm. These calculations and determinations have long-lasting effects on you and your child’s well-being. Having a skilled, experienced legal advocate involved in the process is crucial to securing a fair outcome.
Child support deviations
Though the court determines the presumptive amount each parent must contribute to the child’s financial support, there are times when that amount needs, or may simply deserve, to be adjusted to account for factors not initially recognized by the child support calculator.
These changes, called deviations, fall into two categories: mandatory and non-mandatory.
Courts are required to consider changes to the presumptive child support calculation for mandatory deviations. Mandatory deviations include healthcare insurance premiums and work-related childcare costs.
If one parent pays for health insurance and/or work-related childcare costs, child support guidelines allow that expense to be taken out, or separated from, the calculations of the parents’ combined gross income.
Then, the expense is covered by each parent on a pro-rata basis. In other words, the amount they must contribute for this support is in proportion to their individual percentage of the combined income.
Non-mandatory (discretionary) deviations
Non-mandatory deviations are also called discretionary deviations, and they do not have to be included in the child support calculation. It is within the court’s discretion to raise or lower the presumptive child support amount for non-mandatory deviations.
The changes may be ordered, but the court is not mandated to make the change. The court’s job is to evaluate the situation and render a decision in the best interest of the child.
Examples of non-mandatory deviations
- Extra-curricular activities or camps
- Private school
- Travel expenses, if one parent lives out of state and must foot the bill for transportation costs when their child visits.
- Life insurance, if a parent purchases a policy to benefit the child
- Additional health insurance, like dental and vision coverage
High or low income on the part of either parent may prompt the court to consider a deviation as can parenting time, alimony payments, mortgage payments if the non-custodial parent pays the mortgage on the child’s residence, and other circumstances specific to the case.
What happens if a parent doesn’t pay child support?
Found in contempt of court
Should a parent fail to comply with a support order, that parent may be found in contempt of court. A contempt action can be filed against the non-custodial parent who does not make support payments or provide required medical insurance. Non-custodial parents found to be in contempt of court can be issued a fine, a jail sentence, or both penalties.
Parenting accountability program
A judge can also order a non-compliant parent to enroll in a parenting accountability program. While enrolled, the parent is still required to pay the ordered child support, covering current payments and making up for missed payments.
Other enforcement methods
Along with filing contempt actions, the court can use the following means to enforce payment compliance:
- Garnishing income, whether from paychecks, unemployment, or workers’ compensation benefits
- Taking from the parent’s federal and state income tax refunds
- Suspending the parent’s licenses, such as a driver’s, professional, or recreational (e.g., hunting and fishing)
- Reporting the parent’s non-compliance to the three credit reporting bureaus
- Denying, suspending, or revoking the parent’s passport if they owe more than $2,500
- Filing liens to seize bank accounts, lump-sum workers’ compensation awards, or real or personal property
- Seizing lottery windfalls over $2,500
Modifying child support in Georgia
The role of DCSS
The Division of Child Support Services (DCSS), a branch of the Georgia Department of Human Services, is the government office responsible for reviewing, then granting or denying modifications to child support agreements.
DCSS oversees child-support reviews but has no authority over custody or visitation agreements. Modification requests can come from a non-custodial parent seeking to lower the amount they pay or a custodial parent seeking an increase in what the non-custodial parent pays.
The parent requesting a review is responsible for paying a non-refundable $100 review application fee unless they are on public assistance, Medicaid, or otherwise able to meet specific standards showing financial hardship.
Reviews can take months, especially if the non-custodial parent is hard to find or it is difficult to verify that parent’s assets. If another state is involved, the complications increase.
An Albany, GA child support lawyer can help you complete the application and represent you through any related court proceedings.
Things to consider
Support modifications do not work retroactively, which means you need to apply for a review as soon as possible so you can see change as quickly as possible. Until a new court order is issued, the original support amount is what the non-custodial parent is responsible for providing.
Most commonly, modification requests follow a change in a parent’s financial situation or the child’s needs. Sometimes requests come if there are adjustments to the custodial agreement, a child reaches the age of majority, or a parent carries out more or less visitation that the Parenting Plan requires.
Our child support attorneys in Albany, GA are ready to help
Shrable Law Firm, P.C. is committed to helping families and children affected by divorce and child support cases. Whether you and your ex-spouse are on friendly or adversarial terms, it is absolutely critical to have an experienced Albany, GA child support attorney oversee the complex legal proceedings and requirements so you are treated fairly under the law. ‘Our child support attorneys in Albany, GA understand how draining these proceedings can be for all involved. We will stand by you, work with you, and fight for you and your child throughout your case. Contact us today with a call at (229) 349-6291 or use our electronic request form to schedule a consultation.
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