Child Support Lawyers in Atlanta
In 2007, Georgia changed the way child support was calculated. Instead of a calculation based upon a flat percentage of gross income, Georgia now uses an income shares model to determine how much child support will be paid. That means that both parents’ incomes are considered. It is necessary to complete a child support worksheet to calculate the amount of child support. The court will not enter a final order and complete your case until a completed child support worksheet has been filed. You can find the online child support worksheet here: https://services.georgia.gov/dhr/cspp/do/public/SupportCalc
The presumptive amount of child support, that is, the amount that the worksheet calculates should be paid, can be increased or decreased, but a good reason must be given to the court for the departure from the worksheet amount. Our experience indicates that courts are inclined to award the amount of child support calculated by using the worksheet, so it is important to make sure the worksheet is properly filled in with accurate numbers for both income and child related expenses.
While the child support worksheet seems straight forward, it is extremely helpful to have an experienced family law attorney assist with the input for the calculator. The statutory process for calculating child support is extremely lengthy. The statute is several pages long. It is vital to include everything that is allowed, as every entry on the worksheet changes the presumptive amount of child support. The children’s expenses, which include health insurance premiums, private school tuition, and child care costs, all directly impact the amount of child support that will be paid. The parents’ income also directly impacts the amount of child support that will be paid. The income that is put into the calculator must include net rental income, dividend and interest income, bonus income, and any other money received by a parent. Since the amount of child support is so important, having your family law attorney correctly prepare the worksheet is essential.
In addition to the parents’ income and the children’s expenses, the amount of child support is also dependent upon the number of children who are being supported. Child support is paid for each child until the child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever last occurs. Of course, if a child has not graduated from high school because the child is no longer attending high school, the support is not due if the child is over 18. Child support is never required for a child over 20, even if the child is still attending high school. It is also helpful to know that if you have three children, and the oldest graduates from high school and turns 18, the amount is not automatically reduced unless your court order says it is. The child support also does not reduce by one third.
Many parents want to know if the amount of child support can be different than the amount the Georgia child support worksheet calculates if the children spend half of their time with each parent. The simple answer is yes, but there are many exceptions. If both parents earn similar incomes, then it is possible that neither parent will pay child support to the other if the children spend equal time with each parent. However, if one parent earns substantially more than the other parent, whether or how much the child support amount will be reduced because of shared parenting time is not easy to predict. The Georgia child support statute does not provide a formula for how to calculate child support when the children share time equally with the parents. The court is going to be primarily concerned that the children will be adequately supported in both homes when it determines how much child support will be paid, if any, when there is equal parenting time.
Child support can be modified for a number of reasons. Child support can be decreased if a family has more than one child and the oldest turns 18 and graduates from high school. This situation is best addressed in the original child support order, as that will save the time and expense of modifying the support amount later. Child support can also be decreased if a parent loses his or her job or increased if a parent gets a job that pays more or gets a substantial raise, and it can be decreased if a parent spends more time with the children than the parenting plan contemplated. The parent who seeks the modification of child support must first prove that there has been a change and then the court has the discretion to change the amount of child support. Except in limited circumstances, the child support amount can only be modified once every two years.
Child support cannot be modified retroactively, so if a parent who think he or she has reason to change the amount of child support, the parent should contact an attorney immediately. The attorney can help calculate what the new amount of child support should be and help determine whether the expense of seeking a modification is worth it based upon the anticipated monthly change in the amount of support. In other words, if the change in the amount of child support to be paid or received is relatively small, it may not be worth the time and expense of litigating to have it modified. If the parents can agree to modify the amount, it is almost always worth discussing.
Georgia law also allows the court to award attorneys fees to the parent who wins the child support modification case to be paid by the parent who loses the case. That prevents an angry parent from bringing a frivolous case to try to adjust child support.
If you have a child with special needs that will never be able to live independently and support himself or herself, it is critical to retain an attorney who has expertise in how to handle that situation. Since child support cannot be ordered to be paid for an adult child, other means are required to make sure that the child, once he or she becomes an adult, will be supported by both parents.