Originally created 02/02/05

Lawmaker pushes new child-support formula



ATLANTA - An Augusta lawmaker introduced legislation Tuesday that would radically overhaul the calculation for child support in Georgia, which currently uses a formula based on data from as far back as the Civil War era.

Current law requires only non-custodial parents to pay child support, though judges can factor in the income of custodial parents on a case-by-case basis.

Republican Rep. Sue Bur-meister wants to turn that exception into the state's rule by requiring courts to calculate child support payments with a formula that provides a more equitable distribution of costs between custodial and noncustodial parents.

Such an "income sharing" model already is being used in 34 other states, including Alabama, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee, which converted Jan. 18.

Georgia's current guidelines are based on a 1982 economic study that relies on other studies from as far back as 1860.

Mrs. Burmeister argues that unless the income of custodial parents is factored into the equation used to determine child support, noncustodial parents will risk paying more than their fair share.

Several lawmakers quickly voiced concern that Mrs. Bur-meister's bill could lead to administrative gridlock and threaten the financial stability of low-income families.

"The move to the 'income-shares' or 'costs shares' model creates more bureaucracy, will slow the process and will create a more adversarial contest in court," warned Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, a former chairwoman of the House Judiciary Committee.

Several Democrats are co-sponsoring Mrs. Burmeister's bill, including Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan, D-Austell. She said Tuesday that she intends to ensure the bill keeps current language that allows judges to consider such factors as poverty and spousal abuse when awarding child support.

Reach Brian Basinger at (404) 681-1701 or brian.basinger@morris.com.