If you’re in the midst of a divorce (or considering one), child support can be one of the most concerning matters. Will you be able to effectively care for your children as a single parent?
The good news is that Georgia follows a formula that’s available to anyone.
The slightly more complicated news is that certain factors (like shared parenting time and specific additional expenses) may allow for deviations from the formula. We’ll talk more about those below.
We’ve broken the process down so you can understand how it works.
What is child support?
Child support is a recurring payment from the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent. The purpose of child support payments is to ensure the continued welfare of a minor child (or children).
Child support can be ordered by a court. Or both parents can voluntarily enter into a child support agreement. That could happen through negotiations or divorce mediation.
This payment is intended to be used for the care of a minor child in the custodial parent’s care. Generally, child support obligations end once a child reaches the age of majority. In Georgia, that’s 18 years old or upon completion of high school, whichever is later.
While most of us think of child support as something divorced fathers pay to mothers, that’s not always the case. Queer families and non-traditional division of labor in some families has shaken up that norm.
In most situations, child support still flows from the father to the mother. But technically the non-custodial parent pays child support to the custodial parent. And that’s not always from a father to a mother.
One note: Georgia does not require child support to continue after high school. Parents can choose to include college expenses in a negotiated divorce settlement.
How to calculate child support in Georgia
In Georgia, child support is based on a formula that anyone has access to. The Administrative Office of the Courts publishes an online child support calculator. The courts use the calculator as a starting point to set child support payments.
The calculator takes into account the incomes of both parents, child care expenses, and the cost of health insurance for the child. Sometimes the court considers other expenses.
The calculator calculates the amount of each parent’s responsibility for child support. But only the non-custodial parent pays child support to the custodial parent.
We’ll go through how it works in detail below:
Georgia free child support calculator tool
Anyone can access and use Georgia’s free child support calculator tool, though you’ll have to create an account.
It’s important to remember that entering numbers into an online tool sounds straightforward. The conflicts around child support often come from exactly what the numbers should be, and which ones count.
Income evaluation for child support in Georgia
Child support calculations in Georgia begin with the combined adjusted gross income of the two parents. Then the calculator divides that combined income based on the percentage that each parent contributes to the total.
For example, if Parent A earns $2000 per month, and Parent B earns $8000, Parent B brings in 80% of the total $10,000 income.
That percentage is used in the next step to calculate the child support obligation.
Basic child support obligation in Georgia
Attorneys used to use Georgia’s basic child support obligation (BCSO) table to determine the base monthly amount required to care for a child. That amount depends on the parents’ combined monthly income.
Now the calculator does those calculations, but it’s helpful to understand how it’s coming to the numbers it spits out.
For instance, the Parents A and B above make a combined $10,000 per month. If they have one child, the BCSO table says they are responsible for a combined $1,259 in child support. If they have two children, that number increases to $1,749.
Because the purpose of the child support calculator is to determine how much the non-custodial parent pays, there’s a second step. The base child support amount must be divided between the two parents based on the percentages determined above.
If Parent B brings in 80% of the income, Parent B’s share of the child support is 80%. So if they have one child, they would multiply $1,259 by .80 to get $1,007.20. That’s their obligation. Parent A’s would be $251.80.
But the calculation doesn’t stop there.
The calculator considers health insurance costs and child care costs. Those are divided between the parents, and the parent paying that expense gets credit for that cost.
What happens when you calculate the BCSO table, health insurance costs, and child care costs?
You get the Presumptive Amount of Child Support.
So, in our previous example, let’s say Parent B pays $200 in monthly health insurance premiums for the child. That cost is divided based on the above percentages. Parent B is responsible for 80% of that premium: $160. Parent A is responsible for 20% of that premium: $40.
Because Parent B pays the entirety of the health insurance premium, Parent B gets a credit for that $200.
So Parent B’s Presumptive Amount of Child Support is calculated like this: $1,007 + $160 – $200 = $967.
If Parent B is the non-custodial parent, that’s the amount they would be required to pay in monthly child support payments.
Additional factors that affect child support in Georgia
When the court considers another factor in the amount of child support required, that’s called a deviation.
Georgia courts allow deviations for things like:
- Hardship because of low income
- Costs associated with the child’s dental or vision insurance
- Costs associated with the child’s medical treatments
- Travel expenses related to parenting time
The court could treat a deviation like the calculator treats payments for health insurance or child care. The judge divides the expense between the parents based on their income percentages.
Or the court might simply increase or decrease one parent’s child support obligation dollar-for-dollar.
Amount of parenting time
One additional reason for deviation is the amount of parenting time provided by each parent. The calculation assumes that the custodial parent is providing the majority of the parenting time.
Some parents’ custody agreements have a closer to 50/50 time split between the two parents. In that case, the court may decide that a more equal child support obligation is appropriate.
You must include the child support worksheet from the child support calculator in any settlement agreement you provide to the court.
In general, it’s important to remember that the court’s main concern in determining child support is the best interests of the child.
Calculating child support in an uncontested divorce
In an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse agree together on the appropriate amount of child support. Your attorney will help you use the online calculator and consider any additional factors. Together, you’ll decide on a number that best suits your situation.
The judge will review that number to determine whether it’s reasonable and in the best interests of the child. In most cases, judges accept the number agreed to by the parents.
At Porchlight, we work with divorcing parents to amicably resolve questions of parenting time and child support. Contact us to learn how we can help you.