Until Jan. 1, 2007, Georgia calculated child support based solely on the income of the non-custodial parent. Support was set within a percentage range depending on the number of children subject to the order.
For example, if a non-custodial parent were ordered to pay child support for one child, the support would range between 17% and 23% of the non-custodial parent’s income. As a matter of practice, judges typically awarded 20% of the non-custodial parent’s gross income for support.
Georgia law changed on Jan. 1, 2007 and many factors, other than the gross income of the non-custodial parent, became relevant. Georgia moved to what is known as the “Income Shares Model” for calculation of child support is calculated by using a worksheet created by the Georgia legislative branch.
The current guidelines require that the total gross income of both parties be considered. In determining the total gross income, the courts must consider income from all sources before any tax deductions.
This includes, but is not limited to, income from employers (salary), bonuses, commissions, income from self-employment, income from rental properties, severance income, income from annuities, capital gains income, unemployment, and social security income.
When the total income for both parents is input on the child support worksheet and the number of children for whom support is being calculated is entered, a presumptive child support amount appears. This presumptive amount is the total amount (as determined by the Georgia legislatures) that it should cost each month for the care and maintenance of the minor child (ren).
Based on the incomes of the parties and their individual percentage of the total parental income, the obligations of each parent are calculated. For example, if the total gross income for both parents is $10,000 per month, the presumptive support amount is $1,259 per month for one child. If the mother is the non-custodial parent and her income is $6,000 per month, and the father is the custodial parent and his income is $4,000 per month, then the mother is obligated to pay 60% of the $1,259 per month to the father.
The calculation, however, may not necessarily end there. There are a number of other factors that may be present in the child support worksheet. Usually a very large factor is the amount one parent will pay for the childcare of the minor child (ren).
Previously, the custodial parent was subject to payment of 100% of all childcare costs. Under the current guidelines, the childcare expenses are divided based on the pro rata share of the income as described above. Therefore, if the father in the scenario above pays $200 per month for daycare, the mother’s child support obligation increases by 60% of the $200.
Other factors that may be included are the payment of medical, dental, and vision insurance premiums, costs for extraordinary medical expenses, and extraordinary educational expenses. Depending on the monthly amount paid for extracurricular activities, that may also be a factor in the calculation of the support.
The new guidelines also allow for deviations of the support, some specified and others unspecified, that might be awarded or agreed up by the parties. One of the most common deviations is a parenting time deviation.
This type of deviation occurs when the support-paying parent has parenting time in an amount significantly above the normal 20.8% with standard visitation. For example, if the parties share custody equally, then the paying parent would likely be entitled to a parenting time deviation such that (s) he is keeping a portion of the presumptive amount in order to support and sustain the child while (s) he is in that parent’s custody.
At the end of the day, the court will typically not enter any deviations to a child support worksheet unless the deviation is determined to be in the minor child (ren)’s best interests.