As a parent, you want what’s best for your child. Under Georgia law, both parents are required to provide for the child’s best interest. Even if the children are living with the custodial parent, the non-custodial parent must provide their share of the children’s care. Understanding how the state calculates those payments and how to change them, if necessary, can help you decide your course of action.
Calculating Child Support in Georgia
The Georgia Child Support Commission creates and updates guidelines for child support in the state. The commission reviews economic factors and trends to ensure the guidelines are up to date. Each child support case is unique: even with guidelines pointing the way, you should trust a family law attorney to help you calculate your support obligations.
Certain factors can affect monthly payments, like custody, parent income, and healthcare.
Which Parent Has Custody?
Whether you’re being ordered to pay child support or are seeking assistance from an ex, you must first establish who has primary physical custody of your children. The non-custodial parent will pay the custodial parent. The more time children spend with the custodial parent, the more that parent can expect to receive in support payments.
If parenting time is roughly equal, the higher-earning parent will most likely be ordered to make child support payments.
How is Income Calculated?
Knowing each parent’s “monthly gross income” is key to calculating child support payments. This income could be any source of money coming into the household, from salaries, commissions, fees, tips, overtime pay, trust income, or even unemployment benefits.
Some work-related benefits that reduce personal living costs, like housing, meals, or vehicles, can be included in a gross income calculation.
Is Healthcare a Factor in Child Support Payments?
In Georgia, the children’s health insurance and any expense related to childcare are automatically added to support payment obligations. These added expenses depend on the parents’ gross monthly income and the combined cost of childcare and health insurance.
A non-custodial parent making child support payments may be able to subtract their health insurance contributions to find a “presumptive support amount.” This just means the total amount a parent will have to pay without the health insurance added in.
How to Estimate Your Child Support Payment in Georgia
Calculating the estimated monthly child support payments means you’ll be looking at both parents’ gross monthly incomes and considering factors like child custody, the number of children, and healthcare provisions.
Parents will combine their gross monthly incomes to find the total and then look at the percentage they contribute. Georgia uses a tool called the child support obligation table to help parents calculate their estimated monthly obligation.
The table may not account for all deviations, so working with a child support lawyer can give you a more accurate idea.
After the Support is Calculated, What Then?
If you and your ex can reach an agreement on a monthly child support amount, you can present your case to a judge. They must approve the amount to ensure it serves the child’s best interest.
If you haven’t reached an agreement, however, you and your ex will need to either negotiate terms or you’ll need to take the matter to court. Then the judge will hear both sides’ evidence and arguments before issuing a child support order.
Child Support Can Be Modified in Georgia
A child support order is not set in stone. Changing the amount isn’t as simple as deciding to pay a different amount or asking for more money, however. A parent may request a modification to monthly child support payments if there is a significant change in their life.
Parents can apply for a modification two years after the initial order or a previous modification. If there is an extreme change, like if a parent lost a job, the court may consider a change within that two-year period.
When Can You Apply for a Child Support Modification?
Whenever there is a significant change in income or living situations, you may be able to apply for new child support terms. Say a spouse has reduced income – they could ask the court to decrease their monthly obligation.
If you’re the custodial parent receiving payments, you can ask the court to increase your ex’s monthly payment amounts if they get a raise or if childcare costs have increased.
Other situations that may call for a modification to child support include remarriage, changes in parenting time, or a parent’s failure to exercise visitation rights.
FAQs About Child Support Payments
How is Child Support Enforced?
If a parent isn’t meeting their monthly child support obligation, the other parent should inform the Division of Child Support Services to hold them accountable. The DCSS is responsible for helping parents get their monthly payments and ensuring paying parents meet their obligations. You could also ask the court to hold your ex in contempt.
When Does Child Support End?
Child support payments typically end once the child has turned 18 years old or when a child graduates from high school, whichever comes later.
What Kind of Enforcement Actions Can the DCSS Take?
The DCSS has many options available to support enforcement. They may be able to seek automatic wage withholding, ask for drivers’ license suspensions, intercept tax refunds, or refer the errant parent to credit bureaus.
How Can a Lawyer Help Me with My Child Support Payments?
You could be asking to secure child support payments or fighting to keep them manageable. In either situation, you should rely on the advice of a child support attorney. They can help you calculate your actual gross monthly income, your ex’s income, and the estimated monthly payments.
The state’s support table may not show you every aspect of child support calculations. Your attorney will ensure you have an accurate number, and they’ll be able to use evidence to argue that number to a judge. Your lawyer will also be able to file the necessary paperwork to modify your payments if necessary.
Call a Marietta Child Support Lawyer
Securing an accurate child support amount is critical to protecting and raising your children. You want what’s best for them. At the Gentry Law Firm, LLC, we want what’s best for your family. We were founded with families in mind, and we’ve helped countless clients get a fair ruling in child support cases.