Unlike many states, Georgia uses a specific "income shares model" to calculate child support. Essentially, the model estimates the gross income (more on that in a minute) of both parents, and how much the parents would spend raising their children as a cohesive family unit. The court then splits that cost between the parents, so they each pay an amount proportional to their income.
For example, let's say your gross income is $25,000, and your ex's gross income is $75,000. If the court determined the total cost of caring for your child per month to be $1,000, your ex would pay $750, and you would pay $250.
Your gross income includes most streams of revenue you have. Some examples of things that contribute to your gross income are:
- Wages you earn for your job
- Any commissions you may bring in from a side business
- Military pension or another pension, if you have one
- Any self-employment earnings you make
- Retirement account payments and disability payments
- Any money you bring in from investments
You can, however, deduct certain expenses from your gross income. For example, if you're self-employed and run a business, you can include some of the expenses necessary to operate your business from your gross income. You can calculate how much you'll pay in child support by using the Georgia Online Child Support Calculator provided by the Georgia government.
It's worth noting there are a number of factors that typically play into child support arrangements, such as:
- Which parent is the noncustodial parent - In most cases, parents involved in joint custody don't have to pay each other child support (unless the court deems it necessary). However, in situations where one parent has custody of the children, the noncustodial parent typically pays the lion's share of child support since they aren't using any money to house or care for the children.
- How the parents are paying for benefits such as healthcare - Typically, healthcare expenses are split just like childcare expenses are, in proportion to each parent's gross income.
- The current circumstances of each parent - If the parent responsible for paying a majority of child support loses their job or encounters another financial setback that adversely affects their ability to pay for child support, the court may devise a new child support arrangement. Typically, courts determine child support payments in such circumstances by estimating how much a parent should be able to "reasonably contribute" given their circumstances. This measure is designed to prevent parents responsible for significant childcare payments from trying to shirk their responsibilities by claiming unemployment.
Ultimately, Child Support Arrangements Are Determined by the Court
The court has the final say in any and all child support arrangements. The court can unilaterally decide to ignore the income shares model if they think a case warrants such an action. While it is rare for the court to deviate from the income shares model, part of the reason it's vital to have a good attorney by your side is because, ultimately, the fate of your case is in the court's hands.
Parents can request modifications to their current child support arrangement every two years. Hypothetically, if a situation arises where a parent can no longer feasibly contribute to child support at all, or if the children no longer require support, child support arrangements can be terminated by the court. If a parent refuses to pay their child support payments, their ex can ask the court to enforce payments with a court order. If the parent in question continues to refuse to contribute to child support after being served with the order, they can be taken to court and receive an arrearage judgment, forcing them to pay any child support owed to their ex.
Trust Warner Bates With Your Child Support Case
At Warner Bates, our attorneys are highly experienced at navigating child support cases. In fact, our Atlanta child support attorneys have written two books on Georgia divorce law, including child support:
We update these works annually, and legal professionals from lawyers to judges use them each and every year to understand the ever-changing landscape of family law and divorce in Georgia. There's a reason other legal professionals trust our advice on family law cases. Our attorneys have almost 300 years (yes, three nearly three centuries) of combined legal experience, allowing us to navigate a variety of complex cases with ease.
Engaging in a child support battle is never easy, particularly if you and your ex are estranged or disagree on how child support should be handled. Our attorneys are here to make sure you get the information and care you need to navigate your case with confidence, no matter the circumstances.
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