When a couple with at least one child divorces or otherwise dissolves their relationship, the best interests of the child are the paramount consideration. That is why Georgia, like other states, generally requires the noncustodial parent of the child to provide child support payments for the children of that relationship. Georgia has established child support guidelines due to the need for fairness and consistency in child support decisions.

The determination of a fair amount of child support, however, depends on many factors, many of which change frequently. For this reason, Georgia child support guidelines are somewhat flexible. Deviations are possible if circumstances so demand and if they are consistent with the best interests of the child.  

Child Support: The Income Shares Model

The income shares model of child support, upon which Georgia’s child support law is based, asserts that the child should receive the same percentage of the parents’ collective income that they would receive if the parents were still living together with the child. In other words, the child should not suffer economically because of parental separation. 

If one parent earns 75% of the parents’ collective total income, for example, that parent would be responsible for 75% of total child support obligations. Family courts are willing to adjust these amounts to account for actual needs and expenditures.

Modification of Child Support Orders

A court can modify an initial child support order upon application of at least one of the parents in response to changing circumstances. Child support modification requests often include requests for deviation from the guidelines.

Factors That Might Justify Deviation From the Guidelines

Below are a few of many possible justifications for deviation from Georgia’s child support guidelines:

  • High income: An upward adjustment might be in order if one parent enjoys a high enough income. 
  • Special needs child: If the child has special needs (a physical or mental disability, for example), dealing with that disability will probably cost money and raise child support obligations.
  • Private school: Private school is a lot more expensive than public school, and that can justify higher child support payments.
  • Travel expenses: If the parents live far from each other, high travel expenses might justify deviation. 
  • Extraordinary medical expenses: Very few courts would fail to take into account the child’s extraordinary medical expenses, whether they are one-time or permanent.
  • Mortgage payments: A family court might lessen the child support burden on a non-custodial parent if that parent pays high mortgage payments on the child’s residence.
  • Involuntary unemployment: A family court might lessen the child support burden on a non-custodial parent if they become involuntarily unemployed. 
  • Alimony obligations might affect the non-custodial parent’s child support burden.

Hundreds of more factors might apply, depending on the circumstances. 

Applying for Deviation: The Process

To apply for a deviation from Georgia’s child support guidelines, you must complete the following process:

  1. File a request. The parent seeking deviation must file a formal written request with the court. This happens during initial child support proceedings or during a child support modification request.
  2. Provide sufficient evidence. You must establish your need to deviate from Georgia’s child support guidelines by “clear and convincing evidence.” This is a higher standard of proof than the standard that normally applies in civil proceedings. Documentary and witness evidence can both be persuasive.
  3. Wait for the family court to make a decision. 

The family court enjoys broad discretion on whether to accept or reject the deviation request. Ultimately, it’s a judgment call.

Talk to a Georgia Family Lawyer Before You Make Any Irrevocable Decisions

Child support is a deceptively complex area of Georgia law, and mistakes can come with unpleasant consequences. If you have a child support issue, you should schedule a consultation with an experienced family law attorney as soon as possible.

To learn more and get the help you deserve, call our divorce & family law firm at (404) 594-2143 or reach out to Crystal Wright Law online by visiting our contact us page.
You can also visit our law firm at 440 S. Perry Street Suite 105, Lawrenceville, GA 30046.