Low-Income Deviation Study

Georgia Child Support Commission
Low-Income Deviation Study Committee
Public Survey

The Georgia Child Support Commission (“Commission”), Chair, R. Michael Key, Juvenile Court Judge, Coweta Judicial Circuit, has authorized a study committee for the purpose of reviewing the current Low-Income Deviation in the child support guidelines statute, O.C.G.A. § 19-6-15. Superior Court Judge Emory Palmer, Commission member, serves as the Chair of the study committee. The purpose and goal of the study is to determine if Georgia’s current structure of the low-income deviation is adequate for Georgia’s needs in determining the obligation of child support for parents who are considered earning a low income.

Your input on the below low-income deviation is critical to this study committee.

Issues Explanation


  • Child support is established on the actual gross income of each parent.
  • The low-income deviation is used when a non-custodial parent is a low-income earner at the time child support is calculated.
  • The low-income deviation study committee was created after several parent groups attended Commission meetings to voice their concerns.


Hot-Button Issues

  • Some parent groups strongly advocate for changing the child support guidelines statute to include a “self-support reserve.”
  • A “self-support reserve” allows noncustodial parents to reserve a basic level of income for themselves before they are required to pay any child support.
  • Some parent groups view the custodial parent as “not paying” child support, perhaps because the custodial parent does not stop monthly and write himself or herself a check, rather he or she must work within a monthly budget to provide for himself or herself and the child(ren).
  • Should “low income” remain a matter of judicial discretion or should it be set at a specific income level.


Historical Perspective – 2007

  • When the Child Support Guidelines were first enacted, a method for calculating a low-income deviation included a self-support reserve of $900.
  • If the noncustodial parent’s monthly adjusted gross income was at or below $1850 per month, a self-support reserve of $900 was subtracted from his/her income.
  • However, if both parents were low income (income at or below $1850 per month), then the noncustodial parent was not allowed a low-income deviation.
  • If the low-income deviation was allowed, the child support was set at $75 per month.



  • A Low-Income Deviation Study Committee was formed to determine if the low-income deviation should be changed.
  • Use of $1,850 as the monthly income qualifier made the calculation process easy, but automatically excluded anyone with income at $1851 or higher.



  • Child Support Commission presented a bill which was enacted that changed the low-income deviation to its current form:
    • Removed the monthly income threshold of $1850, resulting in no income threshold;
    • Allows for judicial discretion to determine what constitutes low income in any given case;
    • Allows for findings for both parents of extreme economic hardship when considering the low-income deviation;
    • Only when using the low-income deviation, the minimum child support is $100 a month for one child, plus $50 per month for each additional child;
    • Does not prohibit the use of other deviations to increase or decrease the final child support amount.


The current Low-Income Deviation Study Committee was authorized and approved by the Georgia Child Support Commission during the Commission’s November 16, 2018 meeting.


The following is an excerpt from O.C.G.A. § 19-6-15(i)(2)(B) of the current statutory language for the low-income deviation:

(B) Low income.
(i) If the noncustodial parent can provide evidence sufficient to demonstrate no earning capacity or that his or her pro rata share of the presumptive amount of child support would create an extreme economic hardship for such parent, the court or the jury may consider a low-income deviation.
(ii) A noncustodial parent whose sole source of income is supplemental security income received under Title XVI of the federal Social Security Act shall be considered to have no earning capacity.
(iii) The court or the jury shall examine all attributable and excluded sources of income, assets, and benefits available to the noncustodial parent and may consider the noncustodial parent’s basic subsistence needs and all of his or her reasonable expenses, ensuring that such expenses are actually paid by the noncustodial parent and are clearly justified expenses.
(iv) In considering a request for a low-income deviation, the court or the jury shall then weigh the income and all attributable and excluded sources of income, assets, and benefits and all reasonable expenses of each parent, the relative hardship that a reduction in the amount of child support paid to the custodial parent would have on the custodial parent’s household, the needs of each parent, the needs of the child for whom child support is being determined, and the ability of the noncustodial parent to pay child support.
(v) Following a review of the noncustodial parent’s gross income and expenses, and taking into account each parent’s basic child support obligation adjusted by health insurance and work related child care costs and the relative hardships on the parents and the child, the court or the jury, upon request by either party or upon the court’s initiative, may consider a downward deviation to attain an appropriate award of child support which is consistent with the best interest of the child.
(vi) For the purpose of calculating a low-income deviation, the noncustodial parent’s minimum child support for one child shall be not less than $100.00 per month, and such amount shall be increased by at least $50.00 for each additional child for the same case for which child support is being ordered.
(vii) A low-income deviation granted pursuant to this subparagraph shall apply only to the current child support amount and shall not prohibit an additional amount being ordered to reduce a noncustodial parent’s arrears.
(viii) If a low-income deviation is granted pursuant to this subparagraph, such deviation shall not prohibit the court or the jury from granting an increase or decrease to the presumptive amount of child support by the use of any other specific or nonspecific deviation.

What is a self-support reserve, generally?
A self-support reserve is an amount of money a parent paying child support needs to have available to support themselves. It is intended to ensure low-income parents can meet their own basic needs, as well as provide an incentive for continued employment.

Low-Income Deviation – Survey Questions

The original survey questions were written for judges. Please answer questions that relate to your knowledge on the topic.


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