Georgia Child Support & Parenting Time Calculations
In Georgia, the amount of child support is figured based on income only. Parenting time doesn't normally figure into the formula.
The court may deviate from its strict child support guidelines on a case-by-case basis when the non-residential parent's visitation time greatly exceeds what is considered customary. Accurate parenting time numbers can directly affect your child support, whether you pay or receive.
Georgia attorneys and judges often rely on parenting time estimates, even if they are incorrect, because counting parenting time is tedious and time consuming. Divorcing parents often rely on these estimates as well.
Using estimates means your parenting time totals are wrong when compared to your actual parenting time schedule. This means your child support amount will not be fair or exact.
To calculate parenting time, the easiest and most accurate way is to use software. Without software, you're forced to add up hours for a whole year, which is error-prone when you include alternating holidays, summer break, and any changes to the schedule throughout the year.
The leading parenting time calculation software, Custody X Change, can calculate your parenting time to see if it was estimated incorrectly.
Using software, you can also tweak your schedule to see how even little changes affect your total parenting time, and you can see how your parenting time changes each year due to holidays and other events.
You can also track what actually happens, and show how much parenting time you've actually received for any period of time. Historical information is a powerful tool when you request a child support modification or when you request more parenting time.
In any divorce, Georgia family courts award custody of the children to one or both parents. Custody is divided into legal custody and physical custody. In many states, physical custody has an impact on the amount of child support, but not in Georgia.
In a Georgia physical custody case, the family court will designate a primary physical custodian. It will not label physical custody under the “sole vs. joint” designation. The primary physical custodian is the parent who hosts the children the majority of the time. The noncustodial parent has visitation or parenting time.
According to the Georgia child support law, O.C.G.A. § 19-6-15, the family court must designate a primary custodian even if the parents share equal parenting time with their children.
In Georgia, the child support formula is the same for sole and joint physical custody. Unlike many other states, Georgia gives no automatic parenting time credit that can reduce your child support amount.
The only way parenting time can influence the amount of child support you receive or pay is when the family court deems the visitations are substantially in excess of those usually approved by the court. The court will make modifications to child support on a case-by-case basis.
Your best chance for accurate child support is to show the court that your parenting time will greatly exceed what is standard to approve. More parenting time may mean abatement in child support. Georgia family courts make these decisions on a case-by-case basis.
Accurate parenting time percentages are important because Georgia will only consider an adjustment to the child support formula if it exceeds what is considered a normal visitation schedule.
In Georgia, a normal visitation schedule typically looks like this:
- Alternating weekends
- One midweek evening visit or overnight per week
- Dividing major holidays and alternating half each year
- 30 days during summer break, either consecutive or in segments
- Father's Day or Mother's day as relevant, each year
- Alternate years for each child's birthday
If you feel your parenting time exceeds this type of schedule, present an accurate schedule to the court for comparison.
Accurate parenting time percentages are important because Georgia law allows for exceptions to be made in the child support amount if you can show you qualify for special consideration.
The law states that the court may deviate from the standard child support guidelines when it finds extraordinary time spent with the non-custodial parent, or shared or joint custody arrangements.
Consider the hypothetical case of Robert and Mary. Robert earns $4,000 per month, while Mary earns $2,400 per month after allowable deductions. They have two children.
Here are some scenarios of different child support amounts:
- Scenario #1: Robert is the non-custodial parent and pays $884 in child support to Mary.
- Scenario #2: Mary is the non-custodial parent and pays $542 in child support to Robert.
- Scenario #3: If Robert and Mary both earned $4,000 per month, and Robert is the non-custodial parent, he pays $784 in child support to Mary.
The Georgia family court may consider reducing the amount of child support that Robert pays, as the non-custodial parent, if he can show his parenting time greatly exceeds the standard,
Georgia's child support formula uses the following information to calculate your monthly amounts for joint custody child support:
- The residential parent's monthly gross income
- The non-residential parent's monthly gross income
- The number of children under the age of 18 or still in high school
- The cost of any work-related childcare
- The cost of health insurance premiums for the children
- A pre-existing child support or alimony obligation by either parent
Parenting time only figures into a child support formula when you can show that your total parenting time is substantially in excess of what is usually approved by the Georgia family courts.
Paying accurate child support helps your children in several ways, primarily because it ensures their financial needs are met.
Here are some other reasons why accurate overnight numbers help you, the other parent and your children:
- It provides a fair way to determine your child support amounts
- It guarantees the child support amount reflects each parent's responsibilities
- It allows for modifications if your actual time and scheduled time are different
- It is compliant with Georgia law
Your financial obligations to your children don't end with divorce, so whether you are paying or receiving child support, you owe it to your children to pay or receive the proper amount.
To ensure you are paying or receiving the right amount of child support in Georgia, remember these 5 things:
- Georgia child support guidelines provide a child support formula based on income shares that courts will follow unless there are qualifying deviations. Parenting time percentages are not a factor in normal child support calculations.
- In order to deviate from the state's guidelines, OCGA §19-6-15(i)(2)(K)(i) the family court must find that the non-residential parent has parenting time that exceeds standard guidelines.
- To show the court your accurate parenting time numbers, you must provide calculations to the hour of your actual parenting time and show how that compares to standard parenting time guidelines.
- Note that Georgia family courts do not grant parenting time deviations just because there is a shared custody arrangement. Only after certain findings will the court consider granting the deviation.
- Use the Custody X Change software to accurately calculate your total parenting time to present to an Georgia family court.
As you negotiate what kind of joint custody schedule will best fit your needs, the software will accurately calculate your parenting time percentage.