Child custody and support determinations can be the most difficult aspect of a divorce. A recent report by Fox found that parents attempting to get child support payments in Georgia face a "wild roller coaster ride through a system that is seemingly endless."
As stated in the article, enforcing these court orders can be an uphill battle.
Child custody laws in Georgia
In an attempt to help ease the difficulties associated with gaining child custody and determining support payments in the state, Georgia courts passed new legislation in 2007 revising the child support guidelines. This new law was intended to offer clarification by putting together a set formula.
This formula takes various factors into consideration, including:
- Gross monthly income of both mother and father
- Whether or not a parent is self employed
- Health insurance premiums
Gross income includes any fringe benefits like a company car or housing provided by an employer. In addition to these main factors, deviations may be applied for the cost of child care, education and health care needs in certain situations. Adjustments for education can include the cost of tuition at a private school or special needs education.
Adjustments are also made for uninsured health care expenses. The court can take a variety of expenses into consideration within this category, including the cost of orthodontic and dental work as well as vision care and counseling.
If a parent is unemployed the court will determine whether the lack of employment is willful. This includes questioning whether there it is likely that the parent could get a job if he or she put a reasonable amount of effort into a job hunt. The parent's skills, education and training will all be taken into consideration along with past employment history. If the parent is found to be willfully unemployed, the court will make a child support determination based on the parent's earning capacity.
The court is given some flexibility with these rules, stating that the revisions were intended as guidelines. As a result, the court can adjust payments as needed to ensure the child support payments support the child's best interest.
If the court finds the amount is unjust or inappropriate, it may deviate from the Presumptive Amount of Child Support calculated based on the new law. A variety of situations can lead to deviations, including arrangements of shared parenting time.
Deviations are also considered for high income families. Georgia courts consider families who make a combined $360,000 annually to fall within this category. In these situations, the court sets the Basic Child Support Obligation, or the minimum to be paid, at the highest amounts allowed. The amount of support may be further increased if it is found to be in the best interest of the child.
Putting together the evidence needed to ensure a judge makes a determination in your best interest can be difficult. Contact an experienced Georgia child custody and visitation lawyer to help protect your legal rights.