In Georgia, both parents of a child are obligated to provide for his or her support until the child reaches the age of 18 or graduates from high school, whichever is later. Child support disputes materialize where child support is being established for the first time, where either parent seeks a modification, and when there has been a failure to comply with an existing order.
Establishing Child Support for the First Time
To make an initial child support calculation, the gross monthly income of the child’s parents must be combined and applied to the schedules set by the Georgia Legislature to determine the basic monthly obligation. This number is then prorated between the parents based on their respective incomes to determine each parent’s individual obligation.
Many factors can affect the presumptive child support obligation, causing it to increase or decrease. Certain factors require a mandatory adjustment to the presumptive obligation, such as the cost of health insurance and work-related childcare. Permissive adjustments are available due to other factors, including but not limited to visitation-related travel expenses and parenting time deviations.
Child Support Modifications
Child support may be modified, up or down, whenever there has been a substantial change in the income or financial circumstances of either parent, or the needs of the children. A modification action may be filed by either party at any time after the divorce or initial final order of support is entered. However, once a final order is entered in the modification action, the party who initiated such action may not file another modification until at least Two (2) years have passed from the entry of the modification order, regardless of the outcome of the modification case.
Georgia law provides that an obligation of child support continues until a modification to that obligation is formalized by an Order of the Court. In other words, the parties cannot agree to change an existing child support obligation without Court approval, even if a modification to the current support arrangement is clearly warranted. If parents reach an agreement to modify child support without obtaining a Court Order, payments in the amounts required under the original Order will continue to be due, plus interest at a rate set by statute. Thus, it is never a good idea to attempt to modify child support by sidestepping the courts.
Child Support Enforcement
If a non-custodial parent fails to pay child support as ordered, the custodial parent and the child suffer from the lack of resources necessary to maintain the household. Luckily, several remedies are available to collect on past due child support and prevent future instances of non-payment in the State of Georgia.
The most common way to enforce a child support award is to file a contempt action seeking payment of the past due amount, plus interest, attorneys’ fees, and any other costs which may be appropriate. Applicable law provides that hearings in such cases should be scheduled quickly so that the custodial parent and the child suffer as little as possible.
Courts also have the authority to issue Income Deduction Orders, which require that a portion of the non-custodial parent’s income be deducted from that parent’s paycheck to ensure the custodial parent receives it. Where a non-custodial parent’s failures to pay child support are frequent or particularly egregious, harsher punishments such as jail may be imposed.
Call Kimberly Coleman Law to learn more.
Whether you’re seeking to establish, modify, or enforce a child support obligation, you should absolutely take the time to consult with an experienced attorney who knows the applicable law in order to ensure that your children are protected and you are treated fairly. Call Kimberly Coleman Law for a consultation and find out what you can expect based on your unique circumstances.