Parents and non-parent custodians going through a divorce or ending a relationship are required by Georgia law to support their children financially. This often causes conflict and uncertainty. Finances alone cause over 1/3 of divorces in America according to the National Library of Medicine, so examining finances to establish cost is often difficult. But with a seasoned lawyer’s guidance, you may see the process in a different light. In fact, with the right leadership, you’ll have the organization needed to stay steps ahead.
You and your lawyer have established that you have a qualifying child or children, so what’s the next step? Now it’s time to bring out the calculators to evaluate the monthly family unit income, but don’t worry, your Lawyer knows how to proceed. Georgia approaches child support from the view of evaluating what the parents would spend on a child in an intact family unit. To find this, we want to know both parents’ monthly gross income. This total needs to be verified based on W-2s, bank statements and other financial documents. Luckily, Georgia created worksheets and guidelines involving Pre-Algebra, specifically focusing on percentages of income, to help you along the way.
What qualifies as gross income? Here are some examples:
Georgia recognizes that there are other factors affecting finances when raising children. Courts consider things like self-employment taxes or qualifying children living in your home as logical reasons to adjust gross income. If any of the parties have these qualifying adjustments, they will adjust their gross monthly income accordingly. This is appropriately called adjusted gross monthly income.
Georgia legislation defines adjusted income as “the determination of a parent's monthly income, calculated by deducting from the parent's monthly gross income one-half of the amount of any applicable self-employment taxes being paid by the parent, any preexisting order for current child support which is being paid by the parent and any theoretical child support order for other qualified children, if allowed by the court”. For example, if Parent A makes $3,000 a month, and Parent B makes $7,000 a month, then Parent A makes 30% of the monthly income and Parent B makes 70% of the monthly income. If Party A’s adjustments reduce their income, then they will make less than 30 percent of the monthly income.
Once the income of both parents is calculated, the court uses a primary formula based on the Basic Child Support Obligation (BCSO) table to establish the amount. Basic Child Support Obligation is the monthly amount of support displayed on the child support obligation table which corresponds to the combined adjusted income and the number of children for whom child support is being determined. Furthermore, “If the Combined Adjusted Income of the parties falls between amounts shown on the Child Support Obligation Table, then the amount on the Table that is closest to the combined amount should be used. For example, if the Combined Adjusted Income of the parties is between $2,000–$2,024, the $2,000 Combined Adjusted Income found on the Table would be used. If the Combined Adjusted Income of the parties is between $2,025 and $2,050, the $2,050 Combined Adjusted Income found on the Table would be used”.
Child support is split proportionately according to the parents' incomes and adjusted to accommodate for other factors affecting income. They are also affected by custody agreements.
A custodial parent, the parent who has primary custody of the child, typically receives more child support from the non-custodial parent; however, there are factors that the court recognizes that change the total amounts. In the case of joint custody, where each parent has the child 50 percent of the time, the parent with the higher income would likely pay the parent with the lower income. When a custodial parent has not been designated or when 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.
Additionally, a parent who can get medical insurance for the child at a reasonable cost will be considered in deciding the amount of child support awarded. If the non-custodial parent can get health insurance at a reasonable cost, then that parent can be ordered to obtain it for the child unless the parents decide in mediation that another path is reasonable to them.
Child Support is a topic of several modern songs and TV show conflicts, and while it can be a point of contention in a family unit, mediation and an experienced lawyer will soften the harsh stigma around it. The smoothest way to move forward with the process is to have a professional walk you through it to ensure that you and your child are responsibly taken care of financially. NVP Family Law has extensive professional experience in this process and will guide you on this path.