Legal Briefs

Legal Briefs from Chafin v. Chafin: Attorney Manely’s Oral Argument before the United States Supreme Court regarding Power to Protect American Children and Savannah Soldier’s Right to Appeal

Georgia's Child Support Guidelines Change Effective January 1, 2007
Michael E. Manely, Attorney at Law

Overview

The Georgia Legislature passed House Bill 221 in 2005 and Senate Bill 382 in 2006 which together revamped Georgia's child support guidelines. The new guidelines take effect January 1, 2007. The new child support guidelines establish basic child support obligations based on the combined adjusted income of both parents and the number of children to be supported. Individual parental support is then determined by percentage of income, payment of health insurance costs, costs paid for work related child care and other statutory deviations.

Terminology

Gross Income: Includes income from any source, whether earned or unearned before deductions for taxes and other deductions. It includes bonuses, overtime, commissions, trust income, capital gains, disability, workers compensation, gifts and unemployment, in addition to many other examples of income detailed in the statute. Exclusions from gross income include child support received for a child from another relationship, benefits such as PeachCare for Kids, food stamps, SSI and other statutory examples provided.

Adjusted Income: Adjusted income for child support purposes is determined by deducting from the parents gross income one-half of any self-employment taxes being paid by the parent, and any preexisting child support being paid by the parent pursuant to a current child support order for current child support (for a child of a different parent), and any theoretical child support order for other qualified children (if allowed by the Court).

Deviations: Other statutory deviations include either increases or decreases from the presumptive amount of child support based on the courts findings. Such deviations can include high income, low income, travel expenses, alimony, mortgage payments, extraordinary expenses, special expenses incurred for the child and parenting time.

Parenting Time Adjustment: In the judges discretion, a parenting time adjustment can be made to the non-custodial parents portion of the basic child support obligation based on his or her court-ordered visitation with the child.

Percentage of Income: The percentage of income for each parent is obtained by dividing each parents adjusted gross income by the combined total of both parents adjusted gross income. The percentage of income is used to determine each parents pro rata share of the basic child support obligation and each parents share of health insurance and work related child care expenses.

Work Related Child Care Expenses: Expenses for care incurred as a result of either parents employment. The court may include costs associated with a parents job search or training or education necessary to obtain a job or enhance earning potential. Costs are projected for a 12 month period and averaged to obtain a monthly amount.

Extraordinary Expenses: Extraordinary expenses are considered on a case by case basis and may include expenses associated with special needs education or private schooling expenses that are appropriate to the parents financial abilities and would be consistent with the lifestyle of the child as if the parents were still together.

Special Expenses: Special Expenses may be added as a deviation and may include costs such as summer camp, music or art lessons, travel and school sponsored extracurricular activities when these costs exceed seven percent of the monthly basic child support obligation.

Additional Considerations

The amount of support indicated by the guidelines may be increased according to the best interest of the child, and the circumstances of the parties, and grounds for deviations set forth in the statute.

Parties may enter into an agreement for child support which is different from the guidelines, but the Court will review the adequacy of the child support negotiated by the parties.

Self-employment income includes gross receipts minus ordinary and necessary expenses required for self-employment or business operations. Excessive promotional, travel, vehicle, or personal living expenses, and accelerated depreciation, will be excluded as a business expense in the calculation of gross self-employment income.

Variable income such as commissions, bonuses, overtime pay, and dividends will be averaged by the court over a reasonable period of time to determine how much to include in gross income of a parent. The court may also require the parent to pay a percentage of his or her nonrecurring income as a one-time support.

Parents who are willfully or voluntarily unemployed or underemployed may have their income assessed based on past and present employment, education and training and whether the under or unemployment is reasonable in light of the parents obligation to support their children. The court will also consider whether the parent owns valuable assets that appear unreasonable for the income claimed and the parents role as a caretaker of a handicapped or seriously ill child or other relative.

If a parent refuses to produce reliable evidence of income for the court, the court can look to other reliable evidence of the parents income or income potential and increase the child support obligation of that parent by at least 10 percent per year since the order was last modified.

High income parents are parents whose income exceeds $30,000.00 per month. The court sets child support at the highest amount allowed by the table, but may deviate upward where appropriate in the best interest of the children.

Parenting time travel expenses may be considered as a deviation from the basic child support obligation, taking into consideration who moved away and why.

The court may find cause for deviation from the basic child support obligation in instances of extreme economic hardship. An example might be extraordinary medical needs not covered by insurance for the child of a parents current family.

Where a parent involuntarily loses income of 25 percent or more, the portion of child support attributable to lost income shall not accrue from the date of service of the petition for modification, provided the service is made on the other parent.

No petitions to modify child support may be filed by either parent before two years from the date of the final order on a previous petition to modify unless a non-custodial parent has failed to exercise court-ordered visitation, has exercised a greater amount of visitation than court-ordered, there has been an involuntary loss of income or there is a substantial change in either parents income and financial status or needs of the child. Otherwise, modification may not be filed regardless of lapsed time.

The Court may phase in a new child support award over a period of up to one year if there is between a 15 percent and 29 percent difference in the amount of a new award and an award made prior to January 1, 2007. For new awards made after January 1, 2007 that are different by 30 percent or more, the court may phase in the new award in over two years.

The complete text of Senate Bill 382, as passed, including the Georgia Schedule of Basic Child Support Obligations Table is accessible at

http://www.legis.state.ga.us/legis/2005_06/sum/sb382.htm

The information contained in this article is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.


Selman v. Cobb Board of Education

Marietta attorney Michael Manely along with his client Jeffrey Selman (Selman v Cobb County Board of Education) received the Mary Beth Tinker Award Thursday, May 19th in Washington, D.C.

The Marshall-Brennan Fellowship Program, American University, Washington College of Law, presents the annual Mary Beth Tinker Award to the person who has most courageously championed the rights of Americas high school students.

Manely and Selman were selected for the award because of their work on behalf of Cobb County students. In Selman v Cobb County Board of Education, Selman sued to have anti-evolution stickers removed from Cobb County Science Textbooks. The stickers said ... Evolution is a theory, not a fact.... Manely was the lead attorney on the case. Judge Clarence Cooper of The U.S. District Court ruled in favor of Selman this year, declaring the stickers unconstitutional because they violate the separation between church and state section within the First Amendment.

In 1969, Tinker v Des Moines School District, a landmark Supreme Court case was filed by the parents of Mary Beth Tinker. She was a 13-year-old student suspended for wearing a black armband to school in protest of the Vietnam War. The Supreme Court reversed her suspension in the landmark decision recognizing the civil rights of public school students.

The award cites, For your unswerving devotion to the rule of law and the rights of Americas students, we honor you with the 2005 Mary Beth Tinker Award.


Firm Wins Week-long Jury Trial
Utilizing Technology in the Courtroom

The Manely Firm, P.C. scored a major victory, winning a week-long jury trial utilizing technology in the courtroom. We filed a malicious prosecution case against defendants, after they had twice used the criminal justice system to harass my client. I presented my clients case to the jury assisted by the newest technology our courtrooms have to offer. I was only the third attorney to use Cobbs only technologically upgraded courtroom to project document and video evidence. This gave me the capacity to project lengthy documents and shocking photos and video clips on a large screen while pointing out and highlighting relevant sections and segments. (Three opposing counsels bored jurors by passing papers to them and didn't present any video footage.) It was a tough case to win (the system doesn't want to discourage real victims from reporting and prosecuting real criminals) but the technology helped me advocate convincingly on my clients behalf. The victory helped cement my reputation for winning and for creatively using every resource at my disposal to win. I know I'm a step ahead of my fellow attorneys at using technology for your advocacy.

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