Getting divorced or separated can do a number on your finances; when you have minor children, the stakes become even higher. When the system works well, the parent with primary custody receives the funding he or she needs to raise the child, and the other parent pays an appropriate amount to meet those needs. Unfortunately, things don’t always work out the way they should. Sometimes, the non-custodial parent may end up paying too little, leaving the custodial parent scrambling to make ends meet. In other cases, the non-custodial parent is actually paying too much in child support.
The experienced child support attorneys at Kitchens New Cleghorn, LLC in Atlanta understand the unique challenges that can come with obtaining and modifying child support orders. We work hard for our clients to help make sure child support orders reflect our clients’ financial situations and needs, so the amount paid for children’s medical and dental expenses, living expenses and support makes sense.
The Atlanta Child Support Legal Framework
It’s helpful to understand the terminology in child support matters. Some of those terms sound a lot alike, but actually have quite different meanings. Here are some of the most common terms you will encounter:
- Custodial Parent – The custodial parent is the parent with whom the child lives more than 50 percent of the time. When it comes to child support, there is always one parent designated as the custodial parent, even if the parents share physical custody of the child equally.
- Non-Custodial Parent – The parent who has physical custody of the child less than 50 percent of the time is referred to as the non-custodial parent.
- Non-Parent Custodian – A non-parent custodian is anyone, other than a parent, who has legal custody for a minor child, or who has a legal right and standing to ask for child support, modify an existing child support order, or request enforcement of a child support order. This may be a grandparent or other relative, but it could be any adult who meets the definition under Georgia law.
What the Courts Consider
Both parents are financially responsible for their minor children under Georgia laws. In 2007, the state adopted an “income shares model” to determine financial support for child support orders.
When requesting child support, or requesting a modification to an existing child support order, that income shares model considers both spouses’ income, including salaries, commissions, self-employment income, capital gains, interest income, dividend income, trust income, bonus income, overtime pay, severance pay, lottery or gambling winnings, and income or earnings from other sources. That information is used to come up with a “Basic Child Support Obligation” figure. The process can be involved; in fact, there are multiple steps involved in arriving at that figure.
Georgia courts may change the presumed amount of child support based on a number of factors, referred to as “deviations.” The court or jury has discretion to consider deviations including (but not limited to) the following:
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- Income – either high or low.
- Other health insurance.
- Life insurance.
- Tax credits for child care and dependent care expenses.
- Travel expenses.
- Parenting time.
- Mortgage payments.
- Any other “extraordinary expenses”.
Trying to determine your child support obligations or entitlement on your own can be overwhelming and confusing. The skilled legal professionals at Kitchens New Cleghorn, LLC can help you review and understand what the court will consider, and can help make sure all relevant information is provided to the court with your request so decisions can be made on the basis of complete information.
Modifying Existing Atlanta Child Support Orders
While the amount of a previous child support order may have been appropriate at the time it was issued, life can change. If your income, or your child’s other parent’s income has changed, or if medical expenses or other obligations are impacting your finances, an experienced child support attorney at Kitchens New Cleghorn, LLC can help you petition the court for a modification.
Frequently Asked Questions about Child Support Orders in Georgia
Below are some of the most frequently asked questions the experienced attorneys at Kitchens New Cleghorn, LLC hear about child support, along with answers to them.
Q: How does split custody impact child support?
A: When parents are splitting custody, with one parent having primary physical custody of one child and the other parent having primary physical custody of another child, each parent files separate worksheets with the court.
Q: Is split custody the same as shared custody for child support?
A: No. Split custody refers to a situation where each parent has primary physical custody of different children in the family. Shared custody refers to arrangements where both parents are sharing the responsibility of physical custody. Even when a child shares time equally between each parent’s home, Georgia courts will designate the parent one parent as the custodial parent and one as the non-custodial parent, for purposes of determining child support.
Fairly Calculating Atlanta Child Support
Q: What if I think my child’s other parent is hiding income to lower his or her child support obligation?
A: Child support calculations are based on the information both parents provide. If one parent refuses to provide reliable evidence of his or her income, or if there is a concern that the real income is higher than what has been reported, the court may “impute” his or her income based on their earning ability. In considering whether or not to impute income for child support, a court will consider evidence of the other parent’s previous earnings or education. When income is imputed, it assumes the non-custodial parent is working 40 hours each week for minimum wage.
Q: How does an existing child support order for another child impact a new child support calculation and order?
A: If one parent is already paying child support for another child, they may be able to deduct the amount they’re paying from gross income when calculating their ability to pay under a new child support order. The court will require proof, and there is a maximum amount that can be deducted.
Kitchens New Cleghorn, LLC can Help Ensure Child Support Orders are Reasonable
At the end of the day, you want what’s best for your child. When you work with one of the skilled child support attorneys at Kitchens New Cleghorn, LLC, we will do everything in our power to help make sure the amount of money you are paying or receiving in child support is appropriate and reasonable based on Georgia law, and on your particular financial circumstances.
To learn more about how we help Atlanta-area residents and to schedule a free consultation, contact us online or call us at (404) 996-0806 today