Parenting Time Deviation

We’ve received a lot of questions about parenting time deviations for Georgia child support, including

• Does parenting time really matter?
• How is the deviation calculated?
• What happens in cases of 50/50 joint custody?
• Can child support be increased based on parenting time as well as decreased?

Here is a general response/discussion of the parenting time deviation and how it works in the child support calculator.

Parenting time is a difficult issue.  The BCSO is based on income and “standard” visitation time, however that is defined. In the original version of the bill, Schedule C was used to calculate a parenting time adjustment, which was a formula up and down based on how much the family’s visitation schedule deviated from the standard. However, there were many complexities with the calculation and the practical result was that parents were buying and selling time with their children based on finances. So, the result was that the parenting time adjustment was taken out of the final bill as an automatic calculation and moved to Schedule E as a possible deviation.

There is no formula and no guidance in the literature as to how to calculate a parenting time deviation.   You have to figure out what makes sense for the family and then enter it on Line 13 of Schedule E in the non-custodial parent’s column, to reduce the child support amount that the non-custodial parent pays the custodial parent.  Line 13 is formatted to be only a downward deviation, although one could certainly argue for an upward deviation and put it on Line 10 (other non-specific deviation).

I am not seeing parenting time actually being argued very often, as most parenting plans are fairly standard (Wed. night dinner and every other weekend, etc.)   Where it comes into play the most is in 50/50 custody situations and the parenting time deviation is the mechanism to reduce the calculated child support that the non-custodial parent needs to pay, based on the fact that he (usually) is going to have the children much more than standard.

If the parties’ income is about equal and the actual parenting time is 50/50, then it may be appropriate for the child support payment to be adjusted to zero.  However, if the parties’ income is not equal, then it may make sense for one party to pay some child support to the other so that they both have sufficient resources to spend on the children.   Note that the statute defines the non-custodial parent as the person having the least time with the children OR the parent who has the highest income, if parenting time is equal.