When children are involved in an Atlanta divorce, child support often becomes one of the most critical issues in the divorce. Georgia judges look at several factors to determine whether to award child support, how much the child support should be, and whether to modify the child support. Because the guidelines regarding child support and modification in Georgia are flexible, each judge has significant discretion.
Every Atlanta child support and child support modification case is unique. Additionally, child support orders can last for years. Hiring an experienced attorney will help you protect the best interests of you and your child. Whether you intend to file for divorce in Atlanta or you need to request child support modification, Carter/Pilgrim is here to help. Contact our Atlanta family law lawyers today to schedule your initial consultation.
Georgia Child Support Laws
Courts can order the parent who doesn’t have primary custody of the child to pay child support to the parent who does have primary custody. Georgia law requires both of the parents of a minor child to financially support their child until the child reaches age 18, marries, graduates from high school, joins the military, or becomes emancipated. In some cases, courts will extend the requirement of child support until after the child turns 18.
Georgia courts cannot order parents to pay child support for a child who is attending college. However, the parent can agree to support the child through college. They can legalize this agreement by incorporating it into their final divorce settlement agreement, which the court will enter into law.
Georgia Uses a Shared Income Approach
Child support is the payment of money from one parent to another parent. The payments are intended for the support of the couple’s children. While the calculations themselves are straightforward, there are many pieces to the puzzle that can make the process complicated. At Carter/Pilgrim, we will review your case and answer any questions you have regarding child support.
The first step in child support matters involves determining the incomes of both spouses. This step is critical because Georgia judges base the child support amount on each parent’s income. Sometimes, one parent will not disclose all of his or her income in an attempt to pay less in child support.
Under Georgia law, judges make child support calculations based on a shared income approach. Courts will consider the income of each parent, including the following types of income:
- Wages and salary
- Commission, fees, and tips
- Income from self-employment
- Income from side jobs
- Severance pay
- Income from retirement plans or pensions
- Interest from investments
- Income from trusts
- Income from dividends
- Capital gains
- Social Security Disability benefits
- Unemployment benefits
- Workers’ compensation benefits
- Income from annuities
- Damages from personal injury lawsuits
- Alimony and spousal maintenance from people not in the case
- Any other income
Georgia Courts Use the Child Support Worksheet
Once the court determines the gross monthly income of both parents, it will calculate the combined adjusted income. The court will then determine the basic child support obligation, according to the table provided in the Child Support Worksheet.
Next, the court will divide the amount pro rata according to the mother’s and father’s percentages of income. After the court determines the presumptive amount of child support each parent owes, it will consider factors that could increase or decrease that amount. These factors include the following:
- Any pre-existing child support obligations
- Medical care costs
- Excessive expenses for extracurricular activities
- Daycare or other child care costs
- Extended visitation rights for the non-custodial parent
- Parental medical expenses
What Happens When a Parent Refuses to Pay?
At Carter/Pilgrim, our lawyers have extensive experience helping clients fight for the child support their co-parent owes them. When a noncustodial parent refuses to pay court-ordered child support, the custodial parent has a right to pursue the following legal remedies:
- Motion for Contempt
- Income Deduction Order
- Abandonment Warrant
- Garnishment of Wages
Custodial parents have a right to file a Motion for Contempt. When the court decides that the parent who is not paying child support is in willful contempt of the child support order, the judge has the power to incarcerate the parent until the parent purges himself or herself of the contempt. Typically, a parent will need to pay a lump sum of 25 percent of the amount of child support he or she owes.
Child Support Modification in Georgia
What happens when a parent can no longer pay the required amount of child support? Georgia parents can request a modification of child support through the Georgia Division of Child Support Services (DCSS). When a parent asks DCSS to review the child support order, the agency will review the request and decide whether to make an Agency Recommendation for a change to the child support amount. There are several reasons that the DCSS permits child support modification in Georgia child, including the following:
- Change in the parent’s income
- At least one of the children is turning 18 in 6 months or less
- At least one of the children in the case now lives in a different home
- Health insurance must be added to the child support order
- One of the parents has been imprisoned or become disabled
After examining the document provided by the parent requesting the child support modification, DCSS can increase or decrease the amount of child support. Alternatively, the agency may decide to keep the amount of child support the same.
Contact Our Atlanta Child Support Lawyers
Child support issues can quickly become contentious and complicated. For parents of minor children, a poorly decided child support order can have a long-term negative impact on the family. At Carter/Pilgrim, we can help you make an accurate and thorough child support modification request. Contact Carter/Pilgrim today to schedule your initial consultation.