Child Support Calculation
Child Support Calculation in a Georgia Uncontested Divorce:
Without question, the single most disputed issue in uncontested divorce cases that involve children is Child Support. But, although circumstances that affect the child support amount vary from case-to-case, the actual Child Support calculation in an uncontested divorce in Georgia is fairly straightforward — if you use the correct child support calculator.
Child Support is not calculated as a percentage of the non-custodial parent’s income.
Instead, Child support in Georgia is calculated using the “income shares method”, which went into effect several years ago. Before that, Georgia child support calculation was based on the income of the non-custodial parent only. Now that Georgia uses the income shares method, child support is calculated by taking into account the gross income (pre-tax) of both parents to determine how much child support the noncustodial parent will presumptively be ordered to pay.
The Incomes of Both Parties are Used in the Child Support Calculation
The first step in calculating child support in Georgia is to determine each parent’s “presumptive child support obligation.” To do that, the gross (pre-tax) income of each parent must be determined. For the purposes of child support calculation, gross income includes salary, wages, commissions, self-employment income, bonuses, overtime pay, severance pay, pension and retirement income, interest income, dividend income, trust income, capital gains, Social Security disability payments, worker’s compensation benefits, unemployment benefits, judgments from personal injury claims or other civil cases, gifts, prizes, and any other sources of income. With a few exceptions, pretty much every possible source of income is used in child support calculation.
Once each parent’s gross income is determined, both parents’ monthly income is added together to determine the combined monthly income earned by both parents. The, Georgia’s basic obligation table must then be used to determine the combined basic support obligation. The basic obligation table is a chart that sets basic child support obligations for the number of children in the family with combined monthly incomes. After the basic obligation is determined, that amount must be allocated proportionally between the parents, depending on the percentage of each parent’s contribution to the combined income amount. For example:
Father makes $6,000 per month. Mother earns $4,000 per month. Mother is the custodial parent. The couple’s combined monthly income is $10,000. According to the basic obligation table, the couple’s combined monthly child support obligation is $1,259.00 for one child. Because Father makes 60% of the combined gross income and he is the non-custodial parent, he is obligated to pay to Mother 60% of the combined child support obligation or $755.40.
After the basic child support obligation is determined for each parent, there are adjustments and deviations that may be made to the presumptive child support amount to account for special situations or other payments a parent is making on behalf of the minor child or children for whom the child support is being paid. Some of the most common payments that affect the presumptive amount of child support amount that the non-custodial parent will be required to pay are health insurance premiums for the children (not including dental and/or vision coverage) and work-related childcare for the children.
Deviations (increases or decreases from the presumptive child support amount) are possible and are generally done by agreement of the parties in an uncontested divorce. However, a word of caution, deviations from the presumptive amount of child support are closely scrutinized by most judges and require reasonable justification.
The Child Support Worksheet
It is possible (but cumbersome) to determine the basic obligation for child support using the manual chart provided by the Georgia Child Support Commission. But, for the convenience of everyone, the Georgia Child Support Commission offers a free child support calculator, commonly referred to as Georgia’s Child Support Worksheet, which will automatically calculate the non-custodial parent’s child support obligation once each parent’s gross income is input into the Worksheet. This online calculator may be found at the Georgia Child Support Commission’s website.
It is essential that only Georgia’s official child support calculator be used when determining the presumptive child support amount or calculating the final child support amount in a Georgia divorce. There are many “fake” child support calculators commonly available on the internet that are misleading and worthless in actually determining what child support will be for any particular case.
Sometimes, Georgia requires that multiple Child Support Worksheets be submitted to the Court in the divorce action. This may occur if there are multiple children for which child support applies.
The child support worksheet(s) must be made a part of the Final Decree of Divorce when the divorce is granted by the Court.
Waiving Child Support:
Just about every week one of our clients will tell us that she/he “does not want any Child Support.” Or, that the parties have agreed that no formal Child Support will be required. This is a child support waiver and it is not permitted in Georgia. Under Georgia law, support must be provided for the child(ren). The judge simply will not grant a divorce if support for the children is not properly addressed in the settlement documents (or the final judgment and decree if it is a contested matter).
However, Georgia law does permit the parties to agree to a amount of support other than the presumptive support amount if it is properly documented. “Deviations” from the presumptive amount of support are actually common in uncontested divorces and you should confer with an experienced divorce attorney. Deviations must be properly documented and explained or the judge is not likely to approve them.
The Bottom Line:
Just like all of the issues in an uncontested divorce in Georgia, Child Support is an issue that the parties must agree on. We can give you guidance on Child Support calculation and deviations.
As part of our initial conference with our client to start an uncontested divorce that involves a minor child, we always calculate Child Support using the Georgia Child Support Worksheet. It can be complicated and time consuming but it is very important that our clients have a good basic understanding of what Child Support is for and how it is calculated in their uncontested divorce. We require our clients to provide their monthly gross income, their spouse’s monthly gross income, who will provide the child/children’s health insurance after the divorce and the monthly cost of the child’s health insurance only each month. Frequently, the cost of a child’s daycare is also a factor in determining Child Support.
Once the presumptive amount of Child Support is determined, we discuss any agreed-upon deviation(s) and the reasons for each deviation to arrive at the actual monthly child support amount and the method/schedule to be used to pay the support. Of course, the opinions of both parties can be considered in reaching the bottom line child support amount in an uncontested divorce. However, the official Georgia Child Support Worksheet is of paramount importance since it is Georgia law.
If you have questions about child support or child support calculation for your Georgia uncontested divorce, we suggest that you confer with an experienced divorce attorney who routinely handles uncontested divorces in your county.