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Can child support be zero if there is joint physical custody?

Child support in Georgia is determined by using an online calculator that takes into account the monthly gross income of each parent, income adjustments, extraordinary expenses and deviations granted for various reasons. In the case of joint or shared physical custody the deviation requested is based on parenting time, i.e., the argument goes that since the parents each have the children half the time, their expenses are similar and it would be unfair for the noncustodial parent to pay a full share of child support to the other parent.  Some judges accept this argument provided that the parents’ incomes are similar, they live close by and get along. Other judges interpret the statute to mean that require that the noncustodial parent must pay some child support. Ultimately, it is up to the judge to grant a deviation or not guided by the principle of the best interest of the child.

What is income for child support purposes?

The definition of income for child support purposes is very broad. It includes income from whatever source. For instance, periodic help from a parent is considered income, and business vehicles, bonuses and other perks are considered income.

What if income fluctuates?

This is common in commission work, investments, sports and many other lines of work. There is no set way of calculating income in these circumstances. Whatever method is used should be fair, such as an average over a relevant period of time.  If there’s a substantial change in financial circumstances, the other party can petition for modification, bearing in mind that litigation is expensive and there are bound to be ill feelings.

What if the child(ren) needs change?

In general, any significant change in financial circumstances may be grounds for a petition for modification.  A common instance is when a parent becomes unemployed. But children’s needs may change as well. Physical care, specialized education, and psychological needs, to name a few, may be grounds for a modification of child support.  I should mention that any agreement between the parents themselves is of no validity: only the Court can order a modification.

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