Help for un-represented low and moderate-income Georgians who need help with the state’s mandated Child Support Worksheets is now available. The Family Law Section of the State Bar of Georgia has launched its Child Support Worksheet Helpline, a free service to provide one-time assistance for producing Child Support Worksheets for filing in the state’s superior and juvenile courts.
Georgia’s Child Support Worksheets provide the framework for determining the appropriate amount of child support under Georgia law. The child support calculator is used to enter the financial information of both parents to calculate the appropriate amount of child support according to Georgia’s statutory Child Support Guidelines.
Volunteer lawyers from the State Bar of Georgia Family Law Section will assist callers with the calculator and preparing the required Child Support Worksheets. Un-represented litigants needing help with the child support calculator can call (404) 526-8609. A volunteer lawyer will then work with the caller to prepare Child Support Worksheets for his or her case. The Child Support Worksheets will be emailed or mailed to the caller.
The Family Law Section of the State Bar of Georgia has over 1500 members and seeks to educate its members through continuing education and monitoring and reporting on legislation. The Child Support Helpline is an opportunity for the Section members to give back to Georgians in need of legal services who cannot afford it.
Georgia Legal Services Program, which serves 154 mostly rural counties outside metro Atlanta, is partnering with the Section to launch the pilot project. GLSP receives many calls daily from people looking for legal help in connection with child support. The legal aid program will refer many of those callers to the new Child Support Helpline. “We’re very grateful to the Family Law Section for this innovative service. There’s a great demand for basic information about child support and for help with child support calculations,” says Mike Monahan, the director of the Pro Bono Project of the State Bar.
Rebecca Crumrine Rieder, the Chairman of the Family Law Section made a pro-bono project for the Section a priority of her tenure, “the Family Law Section is excited to be offering Georgians this service. There is a need for help with child support worksheets for un-represented litigants and we are glad to marshal the Section’s vast membership and provide a resource that will benefit not only the individuals who use it but also the courts and clerks who too often have to turn people away for not having the proper documents to complete their cases.”
The State Bar of Georgia, with offices in Atlanta, Savannah and Tifton, was established in 1964 by Georgia’s Supreme Court as the successor to the voluntary Georgia Bar Association, founded in 1884. All lawyers licensed to practice in Georgia belong to the State Bar. Its more than 47,000 members work together to strengthen the constitutional promise of justice for all, promote principles of duty and public service among Georgia’s lawyers, and administer a strict code of legal ethics.
The following article appears at Divorcenet.com and was written by Susan Bishop. If you have a child support case in Cobb County or nearby metro Atlanta counties and need advice or assistance with your questions or case, please call us at 770-425-6060.
In order to calculate child support, Georgia uses very specific guidelines based on an “Income Shares Model.” This model estimates the total amount that parents would spend on a child in an intact family unit, and then splits this amount proportionately according to the parents’ incomes. Parents can access the current guidelines through the Georgia Child Support Commission. The guidelines are quite complex and detailed; this article provides only a brief overview. If you’re having trouble navigating through all of the forms, or have specific questions, you should contact a lawyer.
Using Guidelines to Calculate Child Support
If you’re trying to estimate child support, you can use the worksheets and calculators provided by the Georgia Child Support Commission. The first step is to decide which parent is the “custodial” parent and which is the “noncustodial” parent. Generally, the custodial parent has the children more than half the time, while the noncustodial parent has the children less than half the time. If parenting time is equal, you may not be able to determine which parent is custodial and which is noncustodial before first working through the financial calculations. In this case, the noncustodial parent will be the parent with the higher child support obligation, which is usually—but not always—the parent who starts out with the higher income. Although the worksheets and calculators will give a support amount for both parents, only the noncustodial parent pays child support to the custodial parent. This is because courts assume that the custodial parent’s support amount is going directly to costs of supporting children.
Calculating Income and Deductions
To complete the financial calculations, add up each parent’s monthly gross income, which includes most types of income, whether earned or unearned. Common examples are wages, commissions, self-employment earnings, retirement account payments, disability payments, and investment income. If you’re self-employed, you can deduct necessary costs of doing business from your gross receipts to get your gross income, but be aware that the allowable deductions are very limited and do not include everything allowed by the IRS. The manual worksheets include a separate form for calculating self-employment income. Gross income doesn’t include child support received for children from other relationships or public assistance, but it does include significant work-related benefits that reduce personal living expenses—such as housing, meals, or a car.
You can deduct child support you paid in another case and half of any self-employment taxes you paid from your gross income. If you have natural or adopted children from another relationship living with you, and those children are not subject to a child support order, you may also be able to deduct an amount for their support. There is a separate worksheet for estimating this amount.
Basic Child Support Obligation
To find the basic child support obligation, add the parents’ adjusted gross incomes together and match the total with the column containing the applicable number of children in the Basic Child-Support Obligation Schedule. You can find the current version of the schedule at the very end of the guidelines available through the Georgia Child Support Commission. To find each parent’s percentage share of this basic amount, divide each parent’s income by the combined income. For example, if the parents’ combined adjusted gross income is $10,000, with the noncustodial parent earning $7,000 and the custodial parent earning $3,000, the noncustodial parent would be responsible for 70% of support and the custodial parent for 30%. The basic child support amount in the schedule for one child when the parents’ combined monthly income is $10,000 is $1,259, so in this example the noncustodial parent would pay the custodial parent 70% of $1,259 or $881.30.
Adjustments for Child Care or Health Insurance
The only expenses parents can automatically add to the basic support obligation are costs of children’s health insurance and any necessary work related child care. These expenses are normally pro-rated between the parents. In the example above, if the noncustodial parent pays $150 for health insurance and the custodial parent pays $350 for child care, 70% of the $500 total amount, or $350, would be the noncustodial parent’s responsibility and 30% of the $500 total, or $150, would be the custodial parent’s responsibility. The amount of $350 would be added to the noncustodial parent’s $881.30 support payment to get a new payment of $1,231.30. The noncustodial parent can subtract the $150 paid for health insurance, and the final support amount—called the “presumptive support amount” in the guidelines—will be $1,081.30. The noncustodial parent will pay this amount to the custodial parent.
Deviating from the Child Support Guidelines
If the presumptive support amount doesn’t accurately reflect the parents’ ability to pay or the best interests of the children, the court can deviate from the amount. Specific conditions that sometimes justify a deviation include extraordinary educational or medical expenses or other court-approved special expenses for a child, including such things as art or music lessons. These expenses are generally prorated between the parents. A court will consider making a deviation for extremely low income where a noncustodial parent’s gross income is $1,850 or less per month, but will also take into account the impact of a reduction on the custodial parent’s ability to provide the children with basic necessities. A deviation for extremely high income may be appropriate where the parents’ combined adjusted gross income exceeds $30,000 per month.
If you have joint physical custody, or any parenting arrangement where the noncustodial parent spends significantly more time with the children than the standard visitation schedule (alternate weekends plus some summer and holiday time), the noncustodial parent can request a deviation. There is no standard parenting time adjustment, but Georgia courts typically adjust the payment downward to account for a noncustodial parent’s increased direct expenses. A court that orders support in an amount that differs from the guidelines must specify the reasons for doing so in writing.
If you are legitimately having difficulty finding work or have been laid off from a job, you can request a lower support payment. Unfortunately, there are some parents who will try to avoid paying support by refusing to look for work or by quitting a high paying position for a lower paying job. Courts don’t tolerate this kind of behavior and will sometimes order support based on the income that a parent could earn with reasonable effort, rather than just the income of the lower-paying job. If a parent is temporarily underemployed or unemployed for a reason that will eventually benefit the children—for example to obtain training for a higher-paying position—the court will take this reason into account.
Modification or Termination of Support
A parent that wants to modify (change) an existing support order must show some change in long-term conditions that materially affects either a parent’s income or a child’s needs. If the court has already modified an order, a parent must ordinarily wait two years before asking for another modification. The court will waive the waiting period in certain situations, including involuntary job loss, significant change in parenting time, or a noncustodial parent’s failure to exercise visitation.
If you have a support award that a court entered before 2007, and a revised calculation (based on post-2007 Georgia law) would result in an award that is at least 15% higher than what you’re receiving now, you can request a modification. Depending on the amount of the difference, the court may order the new amount phased in over a time period of up to two years.
Georgia child support generally ends when the child turns 18 unless the child is still attending high school full-time, in which case it continues until the child turns 20 or graduates from high school, whichever happens first. The obligation may continue longer if a child is disabled and not capable of self-support.
Enforcing Child Support
The Division of Child Support Services of the Georgia Department of Human Services (DCSS), is responsible for helping families obtain child support payment orders, locate absent parents, establish paternity if necessary, and secure compliance with child support court orders. If your child’s other parent has stopped making child support payments, or isn’t making full payments on time, you should contact a lawyer or the DCSS for assistance.
Source: Divorcenet.com by: Susan Bishop
GeorgiaFamilyLaw : Worrall Law LLC assists clients with child support cases in Cobb County, Fulton County, Cherokee County and other metro Atlanta counties. If you have a child support case in Cobb County or nearby metro Atlanta counties and need advice or assistance with your questions or case, please call us at 770-425-6060.
The following article appeared in AJC.com:
On any given day, hundreds of Georgians are in jail for failing to pay child support.
Family law attorneys say many of these "deadbeats" are right where they belong. They have been found in willful contempt of court for repeatedly refusing to pay their child support, failing to try to find work or hiding their income and assets.
But many parents are being jailed even though they have no ability to pay, creating modern-day debtor's prisons, according to motions being filed in Georgia courts. The state should provide lawyers to indigent parents for their civil-contempt hearings to ensure due process, the filings say.
Leah Ward Sears, former chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, spells out the complexity of the issue.
"There are a lot of kids out there with parents who just don't pay, and for every dollar they're not paying someone else has to pay," Sears said. "Too often it's the taxpayer. They're taxing the court systems that have to process them and taxing the jails that have to house them. They tax the welfare rolls. It also forces extended families — grandmothers and grandfathers — to pay."
But it is illegal to incarcerate someone who has no ability to pay, she added. "We don't believe in debtor's prisons in this country, and that's what we're doing here in some cases."
The U.S. Supreme Court will consider the issue in March, when it hears an appeal from a South Carolina man who was jailed for a year for failing to pay child support. South Carolina, like Georgia, is one of a few states nationwide that do not provide lawyers to indigent parents facing contempt hearings for failure to pay support.
The high court's ruling could change the way Georgia's courts handle child-support contempt cases and hit the state's budget.
North Carolina, for example, has been providing attorneys in child-support cases since a 1993 court ruling required the state to do so. Last year, North Carolina paid more than $3 million to appointed lawyers in child-support cases, Wendy Sotolongo, the state's parent representative coordinator, said.
Emotions run extraordinarily high in cases involving custody and support; angry ex-spouses often are all too happy to see the other parent jailed, and judges, weary of excuses from deadbeats, often oblige them.
In Georgia, after finding a parent in contempt, judges set a "purge fee," which is typically below the amount of child support that is owed. If the parent can pay the purge fee, he or she can avoid being sent to jail.
Over the past decade, 3,612 people — each serving an average of 127 days — were incarcerated in Gwinnett County for failing to pay child support, according to jail records.
"We've seen some who've been jailed come up with $15,000 to $20,000 in a couple of days," Sheriff Butch Conway said. "Some will languish for months and not be able to come up with $100 to $200. Some can't pay it but, sadly, I think some do have the money but just don't want to pay."
Randy Miller, a war veteran from Marietta, sits in a Floyd County jail facing a $3,000 purge fee he can't pay, he said in a statement provided to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution by his lawyers.
When Miller, 39, lost his job as an AT&T service technician in 2009, he struggled to keep up with his $452-a-month child support payments for his 16-year-old daughter. He eventually saw his home go into foreclosure and wound up with only 39 cents in the bank, according to court records. In November, he was jailed for four months for failing to pay an estimated $4,400 in child support.
"My biggest concern right now is finding some work," Miller said, noting his child-support bills are growing because of his incarceration.
Miller said he may try to re-enlist in the military when he gets out of jail as a way to secure a more consistent income, but worries he might be too old.
His lawyer, Sarah Geraghty of the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta, said everyone agrees that parents must support their children. "But we can't go around locking up indigent parents because they are too poor to pay the full amount owed."
Doug Slade, an attorney who represents the state Office of Child Support Services and asked Miller be found in contempt, has said Miller is incarcerated for failing to comply with a court order.
"Our job is to seek to take care of the best interests of the child," he said. "It seems people are often more concerned about the parent who has the ability to work but is not and consequently is not taking care of the child."
Last year, the Southern Center filed Open Records Act requests with county sheriffs to find out how many parents were jailed statewide for failing to pay court-ordered child support. The center, which heard back from 135 of the state's 159 counties, found that 526 parents were incarcerated statewide.
"The people we see in jail are not wealthy ‘deadbeat' dads," Geraghty said. "They are often working people who have lost jobs and become totally indigent."
In 2009, Geraghty obtained the release of Frank Hatley, a South Georgia man who had been jailed for more than a year for being too poor to pay child support — even though the judge and the state attorney who brought the contempt charge knew Hatley was not the boy's father. Hatley should have been provided counsel at his initial contempt hearing, Geraghty said.
On March 23, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case involving Michael Turner, who was jailed for a year after being found in contempt for not paying more than $5,700 in his child-support for his daughter. Turner told the judge he had been addicted to drugs, and he broke his back when he finally got a job. "Now I'm off the dope and everything," he said. "I just hope that you give me a chance. … I know I done wrong."
In its ruling last year, the South Carolina Supreme Court distinguished between civil contempt child-support jailings, whose purpose is to coerce compliance with court orders, and criminal contempt sanctions, which are punishment for disobedience and disrespect. A parent such as Turner "hold[s] the keys to his cell because he may end the imprisonment and purge himself of the sentence at any time by doing the act he had previously refused to do," the court said.
Turner, now represented pro bono by the a number of lawyers, including former U.S. Solicitor General Seth Waxman, wants the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the South Carolina court's ruling.
When a parent lacks the ability to pay, jailing the parent is merely punitive — and illegal — Turner's lawyers said in court filings. The state has no interest in maintaining "a de facto debtors' prison for [parents] who genuinely cannot pay. … As a matter of fundamental fairness, Turner should have been afforded the assistance of counsel to show that he could not [pay]."
This month, the U.S. Justice Department disagreed, telling the high court that Turner did not have a categorical right to counsel. But the agency's brief said the South Carolina decision should be overturned because parents need to be given a more meaningful opportunity to show they can't pay. Such procedures could include requiring parents to complete an understandable form disclosing their personal finances, the Justice Department said.
Seth Harp, who chairs the Georgia Child Support Guidelines Commission, said a U.S. Supreme Court ruling requiring lawyers for indigent parents "could devastate our system."
"We don't pay enough now for the defense of our criminals," said Harp, a former state legislator. "If there's no money for lawyers in child-support cases, then the possible result could be the end of the threat of jail time. And there are many people who deserve to go to jail."
Harp acknowledged that the recession has resulted in increased numbers of parents being hauled into court facing contempt. "I recognize many have lost their jobs, literally exhausted all their efforts to find work, exhausted their employment benefits," he said. "And I also know courts will often err heavily against the parent who's being brought into court. The philosophy is, ‘We've got to take care of the children.'"
SOURCE OR ARTICLE: AJC.com
Former Denver Broncos running back Travis Henry appeared in DeKalb County Superior Court Thursday to try and reduce child support payments to one of nine children he fathered by as many women.
At the hearing, Randall M. Kessler, Henry’s attorney, argued that his client’s $3,000-a-month payments to Jameshia Beacham, the mother of his 5-year-old son, should be reduced because Henry is no longer earning a paycheck in the National Football League.
Henry was released by the Broncos last June.
“When you’re making zero dollars, what is the right amount [of child support]?,”said Kessler prior to Thursday’s hearing. “He’s not putting his head in the sand. He wants to support all of his children.”
In court Kessler noted that Henry awaits prosecution on federal drug charges in Colorado, and that if he’s sent to prison that could hamper his ability to pay child support.
Henry has offered Beacham a one-time payment of $100,000 to settle the case, an offer her attorney, Robert Wellon, scoffed at in court Thursday.
Wellon argued that Henry is unemployed by choice and that he’s squandered hundreds of thousands of dollars that could have been spent on supporting his children.
“It’s kind of like the gentleman who kills both parents and comes to the court to beg for mercy because he is an orphan,” Wellon said.
The hearing is ongoing as testimony continues.
Kelly Lise Murray, Co-Founder & President of DivorceThisHouse.com warns against a hidden danger of divorce real estate -post-divorce mortgages.
Not all forms of alimony and child support count as YOUR income for mortgage purposes. In an article posted on ActiveRain.com, she cautions child support recipients that accepting your support by direct deposit is a huge mistake. She says the same is true about cash. The reason: Banks require proof of income. When you receive support by direct deposit or in cash, there is no paper trail or proof of income.
These are the things you need:
1. A Paper Trail – A Track Record of On-time Payment in Full:
Without a paper trail creating a track record on on-time payments by the obligor, the mortgage lender cannot count your support as income. And you may not qualify for a mortgage without it.
For the best paper trail, she suggests you have your support payments sent directly to state. The slight time delay (from spouse to state to you) is more than made up for by the benefits of state-tracking and collection assistance for support arrears. Plus, state-tracked child support arrears can become liens on your spouse’s post-divorce property; as a result, your spouse cannot refinance or sell that property without paying you!
Otherwise, only accept support by check and make sure you photocopy and keep a record of each support check you receive.
2. A Court Order Requiring Support for at Least 3 Years from the Date Your Mortgage Closes:
Lenders require a court order continuing child support for 3 years before it counts as income. The same is true for alimony/spousal support.
You must actually receive support payments ontime, in full for 3 to 12 months before lenders will approve a mortgage, depending on the loan program.
The bottom line: A mortgage professional can help you determine your best options now for a stronger financial future! And sooner is always better in divorce real estate.
By Sue Varon, Esq. and Jennifer Varon
Non-custodial parents pay child support in a variety of ways. Divorced parents should be provided with all possible options for making these payments. Some new options have emerged both in the public and private sectors.
Perhaps the most common way child support is paid is through an income withholding or income deduction order, which is issued to the employer of the payor, and mandates payment of support directly to the recipient. In most states income deduction orders have been mandatory unless (1) there is a written agreement between the parties specifying an alternative arrangement, or (2) there is a court order finding good cause against it and finding that the income deduction order is not in the child’s best interest.
However, income deduction orders can be problematic. If the payor is self-employed, periodically unemployed, or is paid only on commission, income deduction orders may have little effect. Moreover, many payors do not wish to disclose to their employer their private matters. Also, some employers refuse to comply without a court order. Further, recipients of support do not want the payor to know their bank account information, which would be necessary if the payor’s employer is to follow the income deduction order.
Most states have established agencies for the enforcement of child support orders. The problem is these agencies have huge case overloads, suffer intermittent backlog of work, and delay in transferring payment to recipient. Consequently, many custodial parents have to resort to private suits for enforcement through contempt, garnishment, and use of private child support enforcement companies. Problematically, many private child support enforcement companies charge astronomical fees for their services, deducting a large percentage (as high as 34%) from the child support collected, and in addition, charge annual fees (some as much as $500).
In reality, most divorce cases settle privately and, divorce lawyers draft settlement agreements providing for the required “alternative arrangement” for child support payment. The settlement agreements include the amount of monthly support due, the manner it shall be paid, how often, and until when. A paragraph should also be included in the settlement agreement that provides if payments fall behind more than 30 days, garnishment for support is allowed.
The most common manner of private payment is still paper check. Of course, the worst delivery method is through the child, at the conclusion of the payor’s visitation time. When mailed, payment by check sets up the classic problem of “the check is in the mail” and real or false accusations of late receipt.
Both payors and recipients of support complain that they hardly use paper checks anymore. Payors do not want to deal with mailing support checks when they pay most bills online. Recipients do not want to deal with waiting to get the check in the mail, driving to the bank, and waiting in line, to deposit the check. Further, if the recipient is out of town when the check arrives, the deposit will be delayed even further.
Most people do not want to use the government agencies to transfer the support from payor to payee. The parties have been involved in the court system during the divorce process. After the conclusion of the case they want to handle things privately, outside of government involvement. The solution: payment of child support online by credit card through a private company, rather than the government. Using a rewards credit card to pay support could allow the payor to earn cash back rewards or frequent flyer points. Better yet, setting up payments on a recurring basis would be convenient to the payor. The benefit to the recipient would be receiving the full amount of support conveniently directly deposited into their account whether they are home or not on the date support is scheduled to arrive. Bringing the payment of child support into the 21st century would prevent a lot of post-divorce conflict that too often happens.
SupportCertain is the brainchild of Sue Varon, a Georgia family law attorney and her daughter, Jennifer, an accountant with a Master’s Degree. The company was established to provide divorced parties with “the peaceful way to pay”, minimizing interaction between the parties, while providing them with a way to make and receive support directly and on time. For further information, visit www.supportcertain.comor contact SupportCertain at email@example.com at 404 551-4849.