- As states moved from ability to pay and needs of the children to income doctrine, low income obligators have been adversely affected by child support orders that consumed a larger portion of their disposable income.
- Recent studies has shown that most of the child support arrears are owed by people with unrealistic child supports given their education and income – often when courts impute income.
- Since noncustodial parents are less likely to interact with their children when they have child support arrears, it is in the best interest of the children when child support orders are appropriate and fair.
- As a result of an OCSE initiative called PAID, the federal government updated 45 C.F.R. § 302.56(c)(1) in 2016 to require states to take the obligator’s ability to pay into consideration.
- Five general approaches have been taken by states on low-income adjustment: Self-Support Reserve (SSR), threshold orders, minimum orders, zero orders and deviations.
- In Georgia, O.C.G.A. § 19-6-15(i)(2)(B) allows a low-income deviation if requested and approved by the Court.
- In Georgia, a Low-Income Study Committee was formed in 2019 by the Georgia Commission on Child Support to study the adequacy of the low-income deviation.
- While states claim their guidelines are in compliance with the updated Federal Regulation, their practical implementations are less than adequate.
- First, many states use the poverty level from 10 or more years ago to determine low-income. For example, Georgia currently uses the 2005 poverty level for one person ($9,570 annually). The federal poverty level for one person in 2020 is $12,760 annually ($3,190 higher than the current schedule supports). While states should be required to update their schedules every year, it is unacceptable that the poverty level from 2005 is still being used.
- Second, many states discontinue low-income adjustments once a specific income threshold level is met. This threshold is often based on the federal poverty level for one person. But the child support schedules of most states use the income of both parents. It means that even if the non-custodial parent’s income is at or below the poverty level, they will still pay child support.
Ex: Divorced parents have two children.
Custodial parent income: $1,000
Non-custodial parent income: $1,000
Combined Income: $2,000
Georgia BCSO: $624.00
Pro-rata portion for each parent: 50% times $624.00 = $312.00
- Third, variable expenses like child care and health insurance are not included in the BCSO and increase the child support award. Many states, including Georgia, do not have a child support ceiling for which parents cannot be ordered to pay.