In proceedings involving the calculation of child support to be paid by a parent, the obligor’s assets are considered when determining whether to impute income to that parent and in determining the amount of income to impute. Oddly though, parties rarely ask the trier of fact to construe a parent’s assets as a basic component of gross income, despite statutory language justifying such a request. This article discusses the largely-ignored statutory authority for inclusion of certain assets of a parent as a component of gross income for purposes of calculating child support.

The rules of statutory construction require a court to give statutory words their plain and ordinary meaning, and where the plain language of a statute seems clear and susceptible to only one reasonable construction, a court must construe the statute according to its terms.(1)

The Georgia Code’s child support guidelines contain plain language stating that gross income to set the presumptive amount of child support includes assets which are used for the support of the family, as follows in relevant part:

Attributable income. Gross income of each parent shall be determined in the process of setting the presumptive amount of child support and shall include all income from any source, before deductions for taxes and other deductions such as preexisting orders for child support and credits for other qualified children, whether earned or unearned, and includes, but is not limited to, the following:

(xxii) Assets which are used for the support of the family.

Although the rules of statutory construction seemingly would compel enforcement of such plain statutory language, litigants rarely if ever cite the provision or argue that parents’ gross income includes their assets used for the support of the family. Nor has any published appellate decision in Georgia yet addressed that issue, to this author’s knowledge.

Instead, litigants mainly argue, and appellate courts to date have only addressed, the inclusion of a parent’s assets in determining whether to impute income to a parent and how much income to impute under other subsections of the child support guidelines. One subsection allows a court or jury to take into account a parent’s assets to impute gross income when the parent fails to produce reliable evidence of income.(3) Another subsection allows consideration of a parent’s ownership of valuable assets and resources in determining whether to impute income because the parent is willfully or voluntarily unemployed or underemployed.(4)

In sum, plain statutory language seemingly authorizes a court or jury to include assets used for the support of the family in the tally of a parent’s gross income. Such assets should not merely serve as an alternative to actual gross income when imputing income to a parent, as most child support litigants tend to argue.

(1) Mancuso v. Jackson, 359 Ga.App. 428, 430, 858 S.E.2d 244 (2021), citing Fulton-DeKalb Hosp. Auth. v. Hickson, 351 Ga. App. 221, 223, 830 S.E.2d 582 (2019). (2) O.C.G.A. § 19–6–15(f)(1)(A)(xxii). (3) O.C.G.A. § 19–6–15(f)(4)(A). (4) O.C.G.A. § 19–6–15(f)(4)(D)(iv).

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