Child support is calculated using guidelines established by the State of Georgia. Basic child support is calculated by an excel spreadsheet using the following numbers:
- The monthly gross incomes of both parents;
- The cost of health insurance; and
- Work related child care costs.
As always in the law, even this seemingly simple calculation has numerous complications that can be in dispute and can substantially effect the amount of monthly child support paid.
Calculating the parent’s income is often far from simple. Income includes:
- Commissions, fees and tips;
- Income from self-employment;
- Overtime payments;
- Severance pay;
- Payments from pensions or retirements plans;
- Interest income;
- Dividend income;
- Trust income;
- Income from annuities;
- Capital gains;
- Disability or retirement benefits;
- Unemployment insurance benefits;
- Money received from lawsuits;
- Lottery winnings;
- Alimony received from someone other than the other parent;
- Assets used to support the family;
- Fringe benefits; and
- Other income.
It is vital to include all income from all sources in a parent’s income. If a parent’s income is derived from a privately held business their income will often be in dispute. Is all business revenue being reported? Are the ordinary and necessary business expenses real and legitimate? Does the income from a pass-through entity, such as a S-Corporation, actually pass-through, or is it being held in the company and passed through later after child support has been calculated? If a parent’s income varies from year to year, perhaps because they are paid by commission, their income can be averaged “over a reasonable period of time” to calculate their income. Some income, such as food stamps, cannot be included in the parent’s gross income.
Additionally, a court can impute income to a parent that the parent is not actually earning. Some parent’s may voluntarily reduce their income, or may not earn as much as they can in order to reduce their child support obligation.
This number is usually easy to calculate. It is the amount actually paid by one or both parents for the health insurance of the child. If the child is on a family policy, then the amount of a “child only” policy will be used. If a “child only” policy is not available, the premium will be divided by the number of people on the policy to obtain the amount for the child.
This is the cost of child care actually paid by the parent. The child care must be necessary for the parent’s work, vocational training, or work-related education. The court must determine that the child care is appropriate and in line with the parties’ financial resources.
Deviations from Guidelines Child Support
The calculation of guidelines child support provides a number that is presumed to be correct. Deviations from guidelines amount of child support can be allowed if the court finds that: (a) the application of the presumptive amount of child support would be unjust or inappropriate; and (b) that the best interest of the child for whom support is being determined will be served be deviation from the presumptive amount of child support. Such deviations are discretionary and are often a source of contention in setting child support. The following can be the basis for a deviation:
- High income;
- Low income;
- Other health related insurance;
- Life insurance;
- Child and dependent care tax credit;
- Travel expenses;
- Permanency plan or foster care plan;
- Extraordinary expenses;
- Parenting time; and
- Other reasons.
One or more of these possible basis of a deviation will apply in most cases. Most people pay for dental insurance, life insurance, or a mortgage. “Travel expenses” can apply when the parents live far apart and air travel is require for visitation. “Extraordinary expenses” often means private school, costs of activities, and unusual costs for a special needs child. “Parenting time” refers to the noncustodial parent’s time with the child. When that time is unusually large or small a deviation from guidelines child support is possible.
Uninsured Medical Expenses
The child’s medical expenses not covered by health insurance are not used for calculating child support, but are divided between the parents as they are incurred. Each parent is required to pay a percentage of such expenses. The percentage is usually based on the parent’s respective incomes.
The Law Office of Lee S. Ashmore pursues child support cases, modifications, and collections in Brunswick, Georgia at:
The Bank of America Building
777 Gloucester Street, Suite 402
Brunswick, GA 31520
P: (912) 275-7728
F: (912) 342-7142