Can A Spouse’s Pay be Part of a Child Support Calculation?
February 21, 2019
On May 8, 2018, the Georgia legislature enacted 2017 Ga. SB 427 to amend certain provisions of O.C.G.A. § 19-6-15, one of the statutes governing child support. The amendments, which became effective on July 1, 2018, have vast implications. The biggest change arises from the interplay of the new law’s “imputed income” provision and the “ability to pay” provision. With the enactment of the 2018 law,
a Court may now impute income according to what is in essence the “Totality of the Circumstances”
Specifically, the broad language of the statute allows a court to impute income based on the specific circumstances of a parent. Such circumstances can include, for example, the parent’s assets, residence, employment, earnings history, job skills, educational attainment, literacy, age, health, criminal record, and record of seeking work. Furthermore, a court can consider the local job market, the availability of employers willing to hire that person, prevailing earnings level in the local community, and other relevant background factors.
This sweeping language seems to open the door into what has historically been forbidden:
A Spouse’s Income as a basis for calculating Child Support
Prior to the change, courts generally considered an individual’s gross income, which figure is oftentimes a poor indicator of a his/her actual financial resources.
The other major amendment to the statute is in the form of an “ability to pay” deviation from the presumptive child support calculation. Such a provision allows the court to apply a child support deviation based upon a non-custodial parent’s ability or inability to pay the presumptive amount. Essentially, a court can look to the noncustodial parent’s basic subsistence needs and all of his/her reasonable expenses.
The obvious goal of these two amendments is to ensure that child support orders are better tailored to the parties’ actual financial circumstances. The consequence, of course, is that child support cases are now larger in scope, more fact-intensive, and require more planning and discovery.
© KF Law, LLC 2019. This article is of a general nature. Nothing in this article is intended to provide legal advice. Every situation is different, and the laws in every jurisdiction are different. This article does not constitute the creation of an attorney/client relationship.