More than seven decades ago, the US was home to about 80% of married couples. Today, not even half of them comprise the country’s household statistics. Individuals and single-parent families now make up the bulk of the nation’s households.
With that said, Georgia has among the highest divorce rates in the US, with a rate of 3.5 divorces per 1,000 people. That makes it one of the top 10 states with the greatest number of divorcees. If you just filed for divorce, or if you are contemplating divorce, you are likely wondering what the Georgia child support worksheet is. You may be unsure what it’s for, what information it contains, and how you go about filing it.
In that case, this post is exactly what you need. Keep reading to learn all about this document that every divorcing parent in GA needs to know.
First Things First: An Overview on Child Support
GA Child support is a type of assistance, primarily in financial form, that parents owe for the benefit of their minor children. The keyword here is “owe,” which means that it’s a parental obligation. Child support goes toward necessities like food, clothing, school supplies, and for other expenses that benefit the child, such as housing costs and utilities. No matter what state(s) the parents may reside in, child support must be addressed by the Court during divorce and custody litigations. While the child support obligation itself cannot be waived, the method of payment of expenses on behalf of a child can be set out under Court Order to ensure that the child’s right to financial support from both parents is met in accordance with Georgia law.
Georgia protects the rights of its children by enforcing stringent child support laws. The rules are so strict that failure to pay support can lead to potential incarceration. Non-payment of child support may also lead to driver’s license suspension, denial of passport applications, garnishment of wages, or the loss of a tax refund due to the arrearage.
The Primary Functions of the Georgia Child Support Worksheet
The divorce process is a legal “splitting” of not just the legal marriage contract, but also the couple’s finances. Because the parents will go their separate ways, then they must also split the costs to raise their children. Since they can no longer count their finances as one, the Court must establish provisions to ensure the children’s expenses and basic necessities are paid between the parties in proportions commiserate to each party’s respective incomes, taking into consideration the custodial arrangement of the children, and the payments of certain expenses for the children, such as work-related childcare and insurance premiums for the children.
Georgia’s Child Support Worksheet helps Family Court Judges make this critical decision as to each party’s financial obligation for raising the children after a divorce or custody determination. The Worksheet and attached Schedules have guidelines on the minimum basis for determining child support amounts, referred to as the Basic Child Support Obligation, or BCSO. The guidelines provided in the Worksheet are just that – a guide. As such, the Courts can still use their discretion when determining child support, so long as an adjustment or deviation is articulated appropriately in accordance with the child support statute. Parents can also use the worksheet to come up with estimates of support obligations. The document cites a presumptive amount that the Court may award to a custodial parent. Because it’s “presumptive,” it’s still up for rebuttal, deviations, or modifications. All these roles make the child support worksheet one of the most crucial divorce resources in GA.
The Information Required By the Worksheet
To correctly fill out the worksheet, you need to determine your gross income first (your income before taxes or other deductions). You must also have an accurate estimate of the gross income of the other parent. In addition, you will need expense information related to the children, such as monthly insurance premiums, work-related childcare costs, extraordinary medical expenses and extraordinary education expenses.
Gross income refers to all forms of income, including earned and unearned wages. This is the total amount of money you make before taxes or other sorts of deductions.
The most common forms of gross income are salaries, commissions, bonuses, self-employment income, and overtime. However, you may also have income from rental properties, retirement income, dividends, trust income, expense reimbursement from your company that greatly reduces your living expenses, or other forms of in-kind income. All of these forms of income must be disclosed in the Child Support Worksheet.
There are some instances where the Court must assign an “imputed income.” This usually occurs if there’s no substantial evidence of how much income a parent makes, or if a parent is voluntarily unemployed. In such cases, the judge would have to consider the known income factors of that parent, such as his or her ability to earn income, his or her skill set, how much he or she earned at their most recent employment, or any factors that would prohibit that parent from working.
The Court may also consider the standard of living of a party who is not actively employed or earning an income. While the income of a new spouse or roommate is not considered as income to that parent, the lifestyle expenditures enjoyed by the parent may come into play as it relates to their ability to pay child support.
Additional Child Care Expenses
These include the expenses incurred for the child’s health insurance premiums and work-related childcare. Most work-related childcare costs occur due to the employment status of both parents. Meaning, both parents work, so they have to have someone else care for their child while they’re on the job.
So, let’s say that you and the other parent have extremely hectic job schedules. Because of this, both of you have decided to hire a childcare service provider, such as a daycare, a nanny, a babysitter, or other caregiver. The monthly cost of this service can be included as part of the child support calculation and should be disclosed. Even expenses such as After School Program should be accounted for.
Gross Income Adjustments and Modifications
If you are self-employed, there are certain tax adjustments you can make on your gross income. Your gross income on the Worksheet may also be adjusted if you have another child support obligation order for another child. Likewise, if you have other qualified children living with you that meet certain criteria, then your gross income may be reduced for purposes of child support calculations.
Calculating Basic Child Support
Once you have all the key pieces of information, you can now add the information into the calculator so that it can perform the mathematical functions. After entering the number of children on the Worksheet, you will move to Schedule A to enter your gross income and the gross income of the other parent. The Worksheet will then total your gross incomes, establish the proportion each income makes up of the total (called Pro Rata Shares) and then determines the total BCSO based upon the total gross income calculation. Using your respective Pro Rata Share against the total BCSO, the calculator then determines each party’s basic child support obligation.
You can then move onto the other Schedules to enter other information that may affect the final child support amount, such as other child support orders on Schedule B, insurance premiums and work-related childcare on Schedule D, or extraordinary expenses information and parenting time deviations on Schedule E. Once all of the Schedules have been completed, the Worksheet will show what the final estimate of child support would be.
We here at Fennell, Briasco, & Associates have provided an online calculator for easier estimation of child support. You can use this web-based tool to ascertain a presumptive amount in your child support case.
Getting Professional Legal Help to Create and File a Worksheet
As you can see, creating and filing a Georgia Child Support Worksheet can be quite complex. There are a lot of legal terms that make it complicated and difficult to analyze and understand. These complexities may then cause you to fill out the Worksheet incorrectly.
A Georgia family lawyer can guide you through the whole child support order process. Your attorney can help you ensure that the figures entered in the Worksheet are accurate. They will help you determine which income adjustments and expenses are qualifiable in your case.
From there, your lawyer can establish and file the Child Support Worksheet on your behalf. This is particularly helpful if you have issues with the parent. A child support attorney can even assist you in locating the other parent for you and serve them with litigation to establish child support or begin a divorce.
A Georgia child support lawyer can also help you document the other parent’s earnings. This way, you can ensure that the other parent meets his or her support obligations.
File a Child Support or Divorce Litigation to Ensure Your Child Receives Proper Support
There you have it, your ultimate guide on what the Georgia Child Support Worksheet is all about. At the end of the day, though, it’s all about making sure that a child receives adequate support from both parents.
If you are having problems with the other parent about child support, know that we can help. Please feel free to get in touch with us here at Fennell, Briasco, & Associates. Our highly experienced family law attorneys can help with your child support concerns.
Can I withhold visitation if I don’t get paid child support?
In short, no. If the other parent fails to pay child support, you must file for contempt with the Court or follow the proper procedures through Child Support Enforcement. If you withhold visitation, then you are also in contempt.
Do I get anything in addition to child support and for what?
Sometimes certain expenses can be held outside of the actual child support obligation. Parents can agree to divide extracurricular expenses, childcare costs, or other expenses for the children separate from the actual child support amount. Additionally, the cost of uninsured medical expenses are typically divided between the parties separate from the child support payment.
What about cars, insurance and other expenses for teenage children? Are these factored into child support?
Cars and related expenses for teenage children are not considered necessities. As such, they are not usually factored into the basic child support obligation. Parties may agree to split the cost of these expenses outside of child support, but the Court usually does not consider these expenses during the child support determination.
Can I get child support payments for college tuition?
Once a child is no longer a minor, the Court does not have the discretion to obligate a parent to support them. As such, a Court cannot order either parent to pay for college tuition of their now-adult child. If the parties agree on splitting these expenses, it can be included in a Court Order, but the Court itself cannot require one party or the other to pay these expenses during trial.
What happens if they don’t pay child support on time or at all?
Failure to abide by any provision in a Court Order can result in a contempt action. Failure to pay child support can result in a party being incarcerated, having their driver’s license suspended, being denied a passport, having their tax return taken, or having their wages garnished. You must file either a contempt action or a case through Child Support Enforcement to request relief.