What is child support?
Child support is a court-ordered payment, that is money paid by a non-custodial parent to help support a child. In Georgia, all child support and custody issues must be settled either by court-approved agreement of the parties or by trial. In Georgia, child support is paid until a child:
- Becomes self-supporting
- Reaches the age of 18, or if the child is enrolled full-time in a secondary school, until the child reaches the age of 20
What can a child support order include?
Except in an abandonment warrant proceeding, a child support order can include money to cover a child’s:
- Daily living expenses
- Day care
- Medical/dental expenses
- After school care
- Special needs
- Extracurricular activities
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What are my rights?
Parents cannot agree between themselves that child support will not be paid. Parents cannot waive the right to modify child support because it is a right that belongs to the child or children. Your child has a legal right to financial support from both parents.
In a divorce, one parent is usually given primary physical custody of the child or children. This means that the children live with that parent most of the time and visit with the other parent. That other parent has visitation rights. Sometimes, legal custody of the child or children is joint between both parents. In that case, the children live almost equal time with each parent.
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What are my responsibilities?
Each parent has a legal responsibility to support his or her children. Generally it is the parent without custody who has the responsibility to pay his or her share of support to the parent who lives with the child. The parent who lives with the child is called the primary custodian. This parent is responsible for using the money for the benefit of the child.
Am I responsible for providing medical support for my child?
Even if your child is eligible for a public health care program, the court might still order you to get other health insurance for your child. Public health care programs for kids include Medicare and PeachCare for Kids.
The child's uninsured health care expenses are the responsibility of both parents. Usually, health care expenses will be divided based on income, unless otherwise ordered by the court. If a parent fails to pay his or her share of the child's uninsured health care expenses, the other parent or guardian may sue for payment.
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How is child support calculated?
Child support is calculated on an income share basis, which means the child support is based on the income of both parents. A formula using worksheets determines child support. The amount of child support can be increased or decreased depending on the specific facts of each case.
Georgia courts use a Basic Child Support Obligation table to determine the initial child support amount. The table does not include the cost of:
The parent's work related child care costs
Health insurance premiums
Uninsured health care expenses
These expenses must be added in the calculations to determine child support.
The total amount of child care costs are divided between both parents based on income. That amount is used to determine the initial amount of child support and must be included in the worksheet and the final child support order. If your child care costs vary, the court or jury might remove work related child care costs from the calculation of support. Work related child care costs are then divided based on income and are paid separately. The initial amount calculated by the table can be changed by deviations. Deviations may include (but are not limited to) the following:
The Georgia Child Support Commission has an online calculator you can use based on Georgia’s child support guidelines. It is available for you to use to get a good idea of how much child support your child should get.
What is imputed income and why does it matter?
Imputed income is potential income a parent could earn if he or she tried to work. A parent can present reliable evidence of the other parent's potential income like:
A court or jury, can impute that parent's income based on a 40-hour work week at minimum wage. The court or jury will take into account factors like:
The parent’s assets
Work and earning history
The job market
If a parent is incarcerated, the court will not look at past wages to impute income. The court might impute income based upon the actual income and assets available to the incarcerated parent.
How do Social Security benefits for a child affect child support?
Some children get Social Security Disability Income derivative benefits through a parent. If your child gets these benefits from the non-custodial parent, that will affect the amount of child support you receive. The amount of the benefit is subtracted from the total amount of child support award as calculated by the guidelines. If the amount of the benefit is more than the total amount of the child support award, then the child support owed by the non-custodial parent will be zero. For example, say the child gets $200 of Social Security benefits through the non-custodial parent. If the total amount of child support calculated by the guidelines is $600, then the amount due to you will be $400.
What are income deduction orders?
All child support orders must include a section about wage withholding, unless the parents have a different agreement. Wage withholding means taking child support from the non-custodial parent's paycheck.
Orders that don't contain this provision can be modified to include a wage withholding provision. You can ask the court for this change in a regular modification proceeding or in a contempt proceeding. To do this, the non-custodial parent must be behind in child support payments for more than the amount of one month's support. Copies of the income deduction order must be served by mail on the non-custodial parent and his or her employer.
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