In our original post entitled "The Four Parts of Georgia Divorce," we touched base on the purpose of child support in Georgia and how child support is calculated using Georgia's child support worksheet. Below is a more detailed discussion of child support in Georgia, its purpose, the elements necessary for a successful claim for child support, and how it is calculated.
In Georgia, both parents are responsible for providing for the maintenance, protection and education of their minor children. Child support is a way to ensure that both parents continue to meet this responsibility even after divorce or the dissolution of their relationship. Child support may generally be defined as payments made by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent on behalf of the minor child or children involved. Although paid to the custodial parent, child support is solely for the benefit of the child. Thus, child support payments should be used solely for the benefit of the child or children involved. Additionally, because child support belongs to the child or children involved, neither parent has the right to waive the payment or receipt of child support. O'Neil v. Williams, 232 Ga. 170 (1974).
Regarding child support, Georgia law also makes clear that minor children are not merely entitled to sustenance, but are entitled to support commensurate with their needs, limited only by the financial ability of the obligated parent. Harrison v. Harrison, 233 Ga. 483 (1989). Thus, child support may not only be used to provide for a child's basic necessaities like food, clothing and shelter, but may also be used to provide for a child's medical and dental services, education, transportation, insurance costs, special education costs, and counseling. Moody v. Moody, 224 Ga. 13 (1968); Maloof v. Maloof, 231 Ga. 811 (1974); Bateman v. Bateman, 224 Ga. 20 (1968); Harrison Supra and Clavin v. Clavin, 238 Ga. 421 (1977).
In order for one parent to make a valid claim for child support during divorce proceedings, the following elements must be met:
- There was a valid marriage between the parties;
- The husband and wife are now living in a bona fide state of separation;
- There are minor children as the issue of the marriage who have a legal claim for support; and
- The claim for child support is ancillary to a pending divorce suit or suit for separate maintenance.
O.C.G.A. §§ 19-5-5; 19-6-4 et seq. In matters where the parents have never been married to one another, another method of obtaining child support would be via a paternity suit. Bell v. Arnold, 248 Ga. 9 (1981).
Child support may either be determined by the judge or jury hearing a contested case, or by the agreement of the parties. If a judge or jury determines child support, they do so based on the presumptive amount of child support calculated using Georgia' child support worksheet along with other factors that may either reduce or increase the presumptive amount of child support depending on the particular circumstances of the case. Couples who seek to mutually come to an agreement concerning child support must also seek the guidance of Georgia's child support worksheet to help them determine an appropriate child support amount.
Georgia's child support worksheet, along with instructions on how to complete the worksheet may be found by visiting the Georgia Child Support Commission webpage.