Divorce is complicated. It can be made even more complicated when considerations for child support are on the table. Divorce and child support are deeply tied to income, so what happens if you make significantly more than average or more than your spouse? Can you be responsible for paying additional money per month based exclusively on your income? The law is complicated, which is why you should have a great lawyer on your side. Here are some of the basics that you should know.
Disparity in Income
It was the Georgia Supreme Court case Fladger v. Fladger in 2014 where the circumstance of making a lot of money in and of itself was determined to be an insignificant reason for an “upward deviation” in child support. The decision also included that a significant income disparity was not grounds for increasing the amount of child support paid.
Based on that ruling, if you earn significantly more than your spouse you may not be required to pay more per month in child support based only on the numbers. There would need to be additional considerations for an upward deviation to be on the table.
Standard of Living
The child support guidelines, according to that decision, are meant to afford the children of unmarried parents the same standard of living that children living with both parents who have a similar income level would experience.
The question becomes whether that additional income earned by one parent would have been used specifically to create and continue to fund a higher standard of living. Or, could the needs of the children be met without that upward deviation?
For example, consider the professional athlete who is earning a large sum of money now. A professional athlete’s working “lifespan” is understandably short, so they must make the income last a real lifetime. Should the athlete’s children be given a standard of living as if the income will flow forever? Under Fladger, instead of leaving it within the discretion of the judge, it’s possible to make the case that the athlete is making money to last for the athlete’s lifetime and it is only from the eventual (adjusted) income stream that the children will be supported. The second consideration is what is special about these children (unlike all other children) that they need higher support than the guidelines provide.
The same issues apply to executives, entrepreneurs, any high-income person. In their cases however the focus is on the actual needs of the children. Unless there are special needs, the court is likely to keep any award of child support reasonable and conducive to the actual needs of the child.
Does Deviation of Support Benefit the Children?
In essence, the Fladger court determined there wasn’t sufficient evidence to show that this would be the case. They said that the trial court must “make written findings to explain how the presumptive amount of child support would be unjust or inappropriate considering the relative ability of each parent to provide support.”
If each parent’s income played a part in the establishment of the children’s standard of living, would a deviation actually support any benefits to the children?
Appropriate Deviation of Child Support
Of course, there are some cases where an upward deviation of child support would be appropriate. And if that’s the case, a lawyer would help you better understand the specific processes and arguments that would increase the fairness of the final decision.
However, the courts will consider all factors including how much money was spent on the children versus what was saved as well as monthly payments for various activities or services.
Do you have questions about your income and child support? Contact Shaw Law in Dunwoody to learn more today.