1. Can Both Parents be Custodial Parents?
No. It seems counter intuitive in cases of joint physical custody or shared custody where the parents spend equal time with the children that one parent must be designated the custodial parent and the other the non-custodial parent – but that’s the law. Bear in mind however that in a well-drafted parenting plan the non-custodial parent will have to be consulted in decisions regarding the children and may have final say in one or more of the major decision areas –religious upbringing, medical decisions, education and extra-curricular activities.
2. Does 50/50 Custody Mean Neither Parent Pays Child Support?
No. The child support guidelines set out in O.C.G.A. § 19-6-53 allow for a parenting time deviation from the presumptive child support amount based upon “extended parenting time” by the noncustodial parent, such as shared parenting. See Schedule E of the Child Support Calculator http://csc.georgiacourts.gov/. The deviation must be approved by the judge based on the best interest of the child. In practice, most judges will grant a deviation if the parents have shared custody, earn approximately the same gross monthly income, live close by, and get along. A few judges allow a deviation that brings the child support by the noncustodial parent to zero if circumstances warrant it; other judges maintain that the child support guidelines require the noncustodial parent to pay some child support even in shared custody situations.
3. Is an Income Deduction Order (IDO) Necessary?
No. However, there are circumstances where an IDO is advisable, such as cases where the non-custodial parent has a history of missed child support payments, or would rather have the child support documented – as in the military. Georgia maintains a comprehensive website on IDOs with answers to many questions http://ido.georgiacourts.gov/
4. Can the noncustodial parent withhold child support if he or she is owed child support in some other form from the other parent, such as medical or educational expenses?
No. The remedy for compelling the other parent to pay child support owed is a motion for contempt. This is a great annoyance and means hiring a family law attorney. In most cases a demand letter sent by an attorney to the parent in default is enough to resolve the issue. If the motion must be heard, the movant can ask for attorney fees, which can be grated at the discretion of the judge.
5. Can a Parent Petition for a Modification of Custody in the Case of Relocation?
Yes. Relocation by either parent constitutes a significant change in family circumstances warrantying a modification of custody hearing. The court will determine whether a change in custody is in order based on the best interests of the child. Parents must give each other 30 days’ advance notice of relocation, including the full address of a new residence.