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Turner v. Turner - 285 Ga. 866, 684 S.E.2d 596 (2009)

Rule:

Where a deviation is determined to apply and the fact-finder deviates from the presumptive amount of child support, an order must explain the reasons for the deviation, provide the amount of child support that would have been required if no deviation had been applied, state how application of the presumptive amount of child support would be unjust or inappropriate and how the best interest of the children for whom support is being determined will be served by the deviation. O.C.G.A. §§ 19-6-15(c)(2)(E) and (i)(1)(B). In addition, the order must include a finding that states how the court's or jury's application of the child support guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate considering the relative ability of each parent to provide support. O.C.G.A. § 19-6-15(c)(2)(E)(iii)

Facts:

Raymond and Jessica Turner were married in 1999 and had two children. Raymond filed for divorce in January 2008. The parties reached a partial settlement agreement which provided, inter alia, that Raymond and Jessica would share joint legal and physical custody of their two minor children, the custody arrangement being structured so Raymond is to have physical custody of the children from Friday a.m. until Tuesday a.m., and Jessica is to have physical custody from Tuesday a.m. through Friday a.m., with exceptions for holidays and other special occasions. Raymond also agreed to pay Jessica $11,000 representing her interest in the marital residence. Left unresolved and submitted to the trial court for determination were issues of child support and the division of extracurricular expenses. The parties waived a hearing, and after an in-chambers conference, the court entered a final judgment and divorce decree which incorporated the partial settlement agreement, ordered Raymond to pay $552.09 in monthly child support, and apportioned the expenses for the children's extracurricular activities two-thirds to Raymond and one-third to Jessica. On appeal, the Raymond did not challenge the trial court's deviation from the presumptive child support obligation; however, Raymond contended that the trial court erred by failing to explain how it calculated the deviation and by failing to include express findings that the deviation was in the best interests of the children and would not seriously impair his ability to provide for the children. 

Issue:

Did the trial court err by failing to explain how it calculated the deviation and by failing to include express findings that the deviation was in the best interests of the children and would not seriously impair his ability to provide for the children?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

The Supreme Court of Georgia found that because the trial court applied a discretionary parenting time deviation from the presumptive amount of child support, but failed to make all of the findings required by O.C.G.A. § 19-6-15(c)(2)(E) and (i)(1)(B), reversal and remand were required. The Court further held that the trial court erred in making a separate child support award outside the parameters of the child support worksheet based on the cost of the children's extracurricular activities.

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