|September 22, 2012|
In any case involving a divorce with children or a modification of child support, “the Child Support Guidelines, shall apply as a rebuttable presumption, involving the child support responsibility of a parent.” O.C.G.A. § 19-6-15(c)(1). This applies whether the divorce is contested or is uncontested. All judges pay special attention to any agreed upon child support to ensure that the parents are keeping the best interests of the child in mind when setting the child support obligation.
According to the Child Support Guidelines, the first step a court must take when calculating the presumptive amount of child support is to determine the monthly gross income of both parents. O.C.G.A. § 19-6-15(b)(1). If a party is unemployed, the court would likely input income of at least minimum wage for a 40 hour work week to the unemployed parent. This amount equals approximately $1,256.00 per month. The court will allow for an adjustment in gross income based on a number of factors (e.g., self-employment, other court ordered child support). The final number is the adjusted gross income.
After determining and adjusting the gross income of each parent, the court must “compute the combined adjusted income” to use as a reference amount for locating “the amount of basic child support obligation” set forth in the child support obligation table. O.C.G.A. § 19-6-15(b)(3).
Once the basic child support obligation is determined, the court must calculate each parent’s prorata percentage amount of this amount to determine each parent’s prorata share of the basic child support obligation. O.C.G.A. § 19-6-15(b)(5). The court must then find the adjusted child support obligation amount for each parent by adding to each parent’s prorata share of any health insurance or work related child care costs, again assigning each parent his or her prorata percentage of these amounts. Finally, the court, using the calculated adjusted child support obligation amounts determined above, must “assign or deduct credit for actual payments for health insurance and work related child care costs.” O.C.G.A. § 19-6-15(b)(7). This final calculation will result in “the presumptive amount of child support, a sum certain single payment due to the custodial parent.” O.C.G.A. § 19-6-15(b)(7). While this is a complicated process, the child support worksheets assist in this calculation.
Once a court determines the presumptive amount of child support, the child support worksheets allow the court, in the court’s discretion, to consider deviations from that amount of presumptive child support. There are a number of specific types of deviations that might apply to your case. There are 12 enumerated deviations found in O.C.G.A § 19-6-15(b)(8). The court, however, “when ordering a deviation from the presumptive amount of child support, shall make written findings or special interrogatory findings that an amount of child support other than the amount calculated is reasonably necessary to provide for the needs of the child for whom child support is being determined.” Stowell v. Huguenard, 288 Ga. 628, 629-30 (2011). A variation from the guidelines must be supported by a written finding of special circumstances, including a justification of why the support order varies from the guidelines. Ehlers v. Ehlers, 264Ga. 668 (1994). Basically, as with all matters involving children, the court is going to determine whether the deviation is in the best interest of the children, not the non-custodial parent.
While the child support worksheets can be quite overwhelming, an experienced attorney can assist you in determining the appropriate amount of child support that you should pay or that the non-custodial parent should pay to you.
Please contact an attorney at Greer Jackson to discuss your case.