Child support in Georgia is determined on a need and ability basis. What does this mean? Georgia looks at the needs of the children, for example, how many children need support. Next, the court looks to the parties to determine their ability to pay. Specifically, the income of both parties is calculated and totaled together, then the individual income of each party is given a percentage based on their income in comparison to total household income. The non-custodian parent (the party with less than 50% parenting time with the child(ren)) is responsible for paying the custodial parent child support. In instances where parenting time is set at exactly 50% for each party, the party that earns the greater income is often responsible for making child support payments to the other party.
Imputed Income comes into play when a party is unemployed. Income is “imputed,” or accessed to the unemployed party regardless of the party not receiving any income. Prior to July 1, 2018, imputed income was a set amount at $1261.50 a month based on minimum wage at forty hours per week. However, major changes came through the legislature July 1, 2018 in determining how imputed income should be calculated. No longer is imputed income a set, precalculated amount based on minimum wage, but rather a factor based test that must be evaluated on an individual basis in every case involving an unemployed or underemployed individual.
Under O.C.G.A 19-6-15(f)(4)(A), the court may use the following factors to determine imputed income:
Current and past income of the parties
Assets of the parents
Type of prior employment and earning history
Education of the parties
Age, health and criminal record of the parties
Acquired Job skills
Local job market
Parent’s role as a care taker
When a court determines that one of the parties has an ability to work or an ability to earn a greater income than they are currently receiving, the court may imputer a higher income to the party thus creating a higher monetary obligation of child support if the party with imputed income is the non-custodian parent.
The recent change in legislature now allows a Georgia Divorce Attorney to argue for or against imputed income. This can be done through many means. For example, a Georgia Custody Lawyer can argue facts based on the current job market – The lawyer can show how many applications have been submitted for employment and lack of interviews or job offers in response to argue a decrease in the job market which would result in a decrease in salary. In the alternative, if a lawyer is arguing for imputed income for the other party, the lawyer can pull job positions posted in the area and other job comparisons and can argue the other party may not be receiving interviews or job offers not because of a poor job market, but because of lack of effort of the party and willingness to take a position. Simply said, a party that is unemployed complaining they cannot find work, should not miss reasonable opportunities to apply for positions. This is just one example of the role of a Georgia Child Support Attorney.
Determining child support obligations in Georgia is not designed for self service and is a road that should not be traveled without an experienced Georgia Divorce Attorney.