Courts almost always order a non-custodial parent to pay child support. Courts calculate a “basic child support obligation” using the combined monthly income of the parents and the number of children. If a parent does not utilize his full earning capacity, child support can be based upon what that parent could have earned. Child support is regressive. The more you earn, the smaller the fraction of your income you will pay in child support. Consider these three scenarios.
Scenario 1: Father earns $3,000 a month, mom stays at home with the children. The father’s basic child support obligation is:
$620 | monthly for one child
$881 | monthly for two children
$1021 | monthly for three children
Scenario 2: Dad earns $12,000 per month, mom earns $8000 per month and has custody. Dad’s basic child support obligation is:
$1,138 | one child (under 10% of income)
$1,573 | two children
$1,783 | three children (15% of income for three children)
Scenario 3: Mom and dad each earn $5,000 per month. Dad has custody. Mom’s basic child support obligation is
$625 | one child
$875 | two children
$992 | three children
Additional child support can be awarded for work related child care. This support is generally divided in proportion to income. If day care costs $700 per month, the parent with 60% of the combined earnings would be responsible for an additional $420 per month for child care.
If both parents get a paycheck, determining child support is relatively simple. Each parent’s wages can be plugged into a court approved spreadsheet, which will calculate the presumptive child support amount. Child support can be more difficult to determine in two circumstances. First, if either parent is self-employed, determining their income may require discovery. Self employment income can often be concealed, especially if it is not reported to the IRS. A good attorney can obtain bank and business records and make a self-employed parent pay child support on their full income. Child support can also be more complicated when a parent does not use his full earning capacity — for instance if a father quits his corporate job and becomes a police officer. In such cases, a good attorney can obtain child support based upon the earning capacity of the non-custodial parent.
Georgia law requires both parents to support their children until a child reaches the age of 20 or has turned 18 and graduated from high school. Child support can be modified if there is a material change in either parent’s financial condition. You should seek a modification if your ex’s income has substantially increased or if your income has substantially decreased.