Monday, April 13, 2009

Child Support Modifications in Georgia

/24-7/ -- The 2007 overhaul of Georgia's child support guidelines statute (O.C.G.A. §19-6-15) has greatly impacted the ability of parents to receive modifications of the original support order. Prior to the changes made by the state legislature, child support was calculated based on a flat percentage of the noncustodial parent's (or the "obligor" parent's) gross annual income.

As of January 1, 2007, however, child support is now determined by the "shared income" formula. This formula uses both the mother's and the father's monthly income in calculating a ratio to determine each parent's support obligation. The shared income formula is the most widely used child support calculation in the country. It is based on the premise that both parents are responsible for providing for their children's needs.

Shared Income Formula
The shared income formula is quite complicated and includes several steps before coming to the actual dollar amount owed by the noncustodial parent. These steps include:
• Calculate the gross monthly income of each parent
• Determine the adjusted gross income of each parent
• Current state law permits the gross monthly income to be reduced by a set amount if either parent is self-employed, paying child support for another child and/or supporting other children living in the home
• Add the parents' adjusted gross incomes together to come up with the combined adjusted income
• Using the Child Support Obligation Table, find the Basic Child Support Obligation amount by matching up the parents' combined adjusted income and the number of children who need support with the corresponding dollar amount
• Calculate each parent's pro rata share of the child support amount
• (Each parent's adjusted gross income) ÷ (Combined Adjusted Income)
• This will give you the percentage of child support each parent is responsible for paying
• Calculate each parent's share of the support using the pro rata share
• (Pro rata share) × (Basic Child Support Obligation amount)
• This will give you the actual dollar amount of support each parent is responsible for paying

Presumptive Amount of Child Support
Adjustments may be made to the noncustodial parent's share of support costs based on health insurance premiums, work-related child care costs and parenting time. For example, if the child splits time equally between the mother's and the father's homes, the court may decrease the amount owed by the noncustodial parent because of parenting time.

Once these adjustments have been made, you arrive at the "presumptive amount of child support." This is the amount that the non-custodial parent is expected to pay to the custodial parent.

However, the presumptive amount of child support may not be the ultimate amount the noncustodial parent ends up paying. The court can alter this amount if special circumstances exist. Some of these circumstances include:
• Extraordinary education expenses
• Extraordinary medical expenses
• Low income (if the noncustodial parent makes less than $1850 gross income per month)
• High income
• Alimony
• Mortgage
• Special circumstances for parenting time, like travel expenses

The court also has a catch-all category: the best interests of the child. If the court determines that it is in the child's best interests to increase the amount of child support, then the court can do so -- regardless of the amount of child support determined by the shared income formula.

Two-Year Rule
Either parent may file for a modification of a child support order, as long as there is a material change in circumstances. To be material, the totality of the change must show that the combined effect overall bodes for a reduction of the obligor -- if brought by the obligor -- or an increase if brought by the obligee. The only other justification would be based on changed needs of the child.

In order to for the modification to be successful, the parent must be able to show a substantial change in the parent's financial circumstances or in the needs of the child.
Under the previous law, there was no mandatory waiting period on filing for a subsequent modification of a support order. However, under the changes to O.C.G.A. §19-6-15, there is a two-year waiting period after a modification before either parent can request a new modification of the child support order. There are some general exceptions to this two-year rule, including in cases where the noncustodial parent has not complied with court-ordered visitation, either by failing to attend the visits or visiting more than ordered, and in cases of involuntary income loss.

The change in the law is currently not a sufficient reason for modification.

Article provided by Daniel W. Mitnick & Associates - visit us at

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