Georgia child support payments are calculated according to a Child Support Worksheet (aka CSW or CSWS) that takes into account both parent’s incomes, how many children need support, and the amount of time each parent will be spending with their children. Both parents are financially responsible for raising their children. The Child Support Worksheet is typically used to calculate child support amounts utilizing a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, but it can also be used manually without the aid of a computer. The official Child Support Worksheet is maintained and updated here at the Georgia Division of Child Support Services website.
In addition, since the Child Support Worksheet is not a one size fits all tool, the court allow for deviations of the presumptive child support amounts calculated for different situations. Examples of deviations that are allowed to increase or decrease the amount of child support to be paid include, but are not limited to:
- Child Care paid by either parent
- Low Income earned by either parent
- High Income earned by either parent
- Health Insurance, including Medical, Dental and/or Vision paid by either parent
- Life Insurance premiums paid by either parent
- Child and Dependent Care Tax Credits received by either parent
- Visitation Related Travel Expenses incurred by either parent
- Alimony paid by either parent
- Mortgage Payments providing a home for the minor child(ren) paid by the non-custodial parent
- Parenting Time Expenses incurred or not incurred for expanded or reduced parenting time by either parent
- Education Expenses for the minor child(ren) paid by either parent
- Extraordinary Medical Expenses for the minor child(ren) paid by either parent
- Activity Expenses paid for the minor child(ren) paid for by either parent (e.g. summer camp, music or art lessons, travel, band, clubs, etc.)
- Other deviations not listed above, which either parent may incur for the minor child(ren)
In addition, the child support amount to be paid can be adjusted for additional children the payor may have to support directly (living with him or her) or indirectly (through other child support payments).
Once the Child Support Worksheet is completed and filed with the court, the court will make a final decision on what amount the non-custodial party will pay. in some instances, the custodial parent may even have to pay child support to the non-custodial parent if there is a large income difference. For example, if the custodial parent makes $250,000 per year and the non-custodial parent makes $15,000 per year, it is not uncommon that a court would rule that the non-custodial parent should pay some child support to the other parent. Later, if there are significant changes to income or other circumstances that are relevant to the child support amount paid, either party may file a modification request which will be considered by the court.
Once the child support amount is determined, it is written and described in a pleading filed with the court called a Child Support Addendum. In simplest terms, the Child Support Addendum is a document filed with the court that explains the Child Support Worksheet and provides additional relevant information, which includes but is not limited to:
- what day of the month the child support will be paid
- whether the child support will be paid in monthly lump sum amounts, weekly or twice a month
- whether the child support is being modified or not
- whether the child support amount is being deviated or not
- whether there will be an income deduction order for the child support or not
- which parent will be responsible for providing heath insurance for the minor child(ren)
- how uninsured medical expenses for the minor child(ren) will be paid
In Georgia, most cases involving child support are settled without the court ever hearing evidence and making a final decision. For example, parties seeking an uncontested divorce in Georgia can decide that the parties have equal parenting time and neither party pays child support to the other. The court will usually approve this in an uncontested divorce so long as the documents are drafted correctly, properly signed and notarized, filed with the court and the agreement does not appear to be unfair or clearly not in the best interest of the minor child(ren).
Child Support is governed by O.C.G.A. § 19-6-15 – Child support in final verdict or decree; guidelines for determining amount of award; continuation of duty to provide support; duration of support, where many of the terms governing child support are defined, such as:
- Presumptive amount of child support means the basic child support obligation including health insurance and work related child care costs.
- Split parenting can occur in a child support case only if there are two or more children of the same parents, where one parent is the custodial parent for at least one child of the parents, and the other parent is the custodial parent for at least one other child of the parents.
- 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. Where 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.
- Custodial parent means the parent with whom the child resides more than 50 percent of the time. Where a custodial parent has not been designated or where 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. Where 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.
The definitions provided by O.C.G.A. § 19-6-15 are very helpful because much of the confusion in cases involving child support start with a misunderstanding to the terms the Child Support Worksheet and Child Support Addendum use. Because in an uncontested case, these documents must be agreed upon and signed by both parents, it is important for both parties to understand what the differing relevant terms actually mean to the court.
If you fail to pay your child support you may be held in contempt of court. Therefore, if you are unable to pay your child support as mandated by the court’s order, you should file a request to modify and lower your child support with appropriate documentation.
If you are facing an uncontested divorce or other child support related case in Georgia, call us at 770-609-1247 to discuss how our experienced divorce and family law attorneys can assist.