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The Case for the Travel Deviation

One of the most important values upheld by the state of Georgia and its courts is a parent’s obligation to support his or her children. Parents, specifically non-custodial parents, are required by law to provide adequate support for their minor children, and a minor child’s right to receive support cannot be waived. 

The custodial parent-the parent who has the child for more than fifty percent of the time-may collect child support from the non-custodial parent on behalf of the minor child.

A parent’s child support obligation may be established in two ways: commencement of an action through the Division of Child Support Services of the Georgia Department of Human Services or by way of a private lawsuit brought by one parent against the other for Child Support. In either scenario, a non-custodial parent’s obligation will be determined based on the combined incomes of both parents plus any factors that increase or decrease this presumptive amount. These factors are known as deviations or rebuttals to the presumptive child support amount, which require a court to render findings of fact in accordance with the best interest of the child standard.

Another important value upheld by the state of Georgia and its courts is a child’s need to maintain a relationship with both parents. O.C.G.A. ‘ 19-6-15(b)(8) enumerates several deviations that a court may consider at its discretion. One deviation that has sparked debate is the Travel Deviation or O.C.G.A. ‘ 19-6-15(i)(2)(F). This code section provides, “if court ordered visitation related travel expenses are substantial due to the distance between the parents, the court may order the allocation of such costs…by deviation from the presumptive amount of child support, taking into consideration the circumstances of the respective parents as well as which parent moved and the reason for such move.”

Compare the following hypothetical scenarios:

(1) Parent A and Parent B are in the process of settling their divorce. The parties share three children. Under the proposed parenting plan, Parent A is the custodial parent and Parent B is the noncustodial parent. Per the child support worksheet drafted by Parent A, Parent B=s presumptive child support amount is $1200. Parent B recently found out his position at work is being transferred and this requires him to relocate to New Jersey. Parent B contends to the court that he should be awarded a deviation under O.C.G.A. 19-6-15(i)(2)(F) since he will inevitably incur travel expenses associated with him visiting the children in Georgia.

(2) Same facts as above except Parent B has made arrangements to relocate to New Jersey with his girlfriend so they can start a new life together once the divorce is finalized. Parent B contends to the court that he should be awarded a travel deviation under O.C.G.A. 19-6-15(i)(2)(F) since he will inevitably incur travel expenses to visit the children in Georgia.

A court will consider all facts at its disposal to render a decision on whether a travel deviation is warranted. One of the more critical factors a court is likely to take into account is the reason for a parent’s relocation. Is relocating for employment reasons a more compelling argument for a travel deviation? What about personal reasons? Parent B in the first hypothetical above seems to have a more legitimate reason to justify a travel deviation compared to Parent B in the second hypothetical, who is choosing to move away to be with his girlfriend.

Now change the scenario. Suppose that it is Parent A who is moving for the two, different reasons. How do you feel that should turn out under the first scenario? Under the second?

People are very mobile. Lots and lots of people move all the time. Travel deviations should often be considered or else the children will suffer the loss of a parent. The law does not want a child to suffer the loss of a parent.  However, the law intends that the deviation be legitimate, be necessary.

For the parents who should have a travel deviation, don’t lose out on this option because it will help you maintain a closer relationship with your child. For the parents who are fighting against an ill-founded deviation request, don’t give in. The other parent shouldn’t charge you for their priorities.

Give us a call if you have any questions.

Kourtney Bernard-Rance