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Case Law Update: Walls v. Walls, 291 Ga. 757 (2012)

In Georgia, when considering an award of child support, the court or jury may consider an upward or downward deviation from the basic child support obligation (also referred to as the "presumptive amount" of child support). Such deviations may be specific (deviations that are established by O.C.G.A. § 19-6-15) or nonspecific (an appropriate reason not established under O.C.G.A. § 19-6-15, but found by the jury or court to be in the best interest of the child). Generally speaking, if the court or jury is considering a deviation from the presumptive amount of child support, the primary consideration in whether to award such deviation shall be the best interest of the child for whom support is being determined. O.C.G.A. § 19-6-15 (i) (1) (A). If the court or jury does award a deviation from the presumptive amount of child support, O.C.G.A. § 19-6-15 requires that certain written findings or special interrogatory findings are made.

In Walls, the parties were divorced pursuant to a final decree after a bench trial. The trial court found Wife's presumptive amount of child support to be paid to Husband was $640.96, but that a downward deviation of $83.20 was warranted for extraordinary medical expenses. Therefore, the Court awarded Husband child support from Wife in the amount of $558.00. Wife appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court, who reversed the trial court's judgment because it had not made findings regarding the downward deviation as required by O.C.G.A. § 19-6-15. The Supreme Court ruled that these findings are "mandatory to ensure that the best interest of the children [are] protected." Further, the Court ruled that the findings are required "even when the amount of the deviation could be characterized as de minimus, and even where the deviation favors the party complaining about it."

The law in Georgia in reference to child support can be complicated and confusing. If you have an issue regarding child support, you should contact an experienced family law attorney for more detailed information.

Courtney H. Carpenter


Case Law Update
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