Child support is one of the most controversial issues within Family Law. This is because it is hard to view child support and child custody as distinct and separate issues. Many clients cannot understand how they can be required to pay child support yet have no custodial rights. Others complain that a parent behind on or refusing to pay child support, should not be entitled to visitation or custody rights. However, the law looks to child support and child custody separately, which means you can have one without the other.
Determinations of child support made in legitimation, paternity, or divorce cases can affect both parents and children until the child’s emancipation.
Obtaining Child Support Payments
Child support determinations are based on Georgia’s Child Support Guidelines, taking into account the child custody arrangements, the financial position of each parent, and the needs of the child. Under Georgia family law, both parents are responsible for providing appropriate support for their children.
As your child support Attorney’s our role is to ensure that all the financial facts are presented in order to ensure that the child support that is ordered is fair and appropriate. This is not always easy, as some parents do not present an accurate accounting of their finances and hide income. When needed, our firm can work with an investigation to uncover hidden assets so the child receives the support he or she is due.
Child Support Cannot Be Waived
Child support may not be waived by agreement of the parties. Both parties have a statutory obligation to support their children until they reach the age of majority. In some instances that obligation may be continued until the children are 20 years old, if the children have not yet graduated high school, and they are attending school full time. In those situations, the obligation ends once the child reaches 19 years of age, or graduates high school, whichever happens first.
Enforcement of Child Support Obligations
If you have an existing child support order and you are owed back child support, we can help you take legal action to collect unpaid child support payments. Georgia child support law provides a number of penalties for parents who have not paid support, or who are behind on their child support payments. There are things we can do to enforce child support collections and get you the support you need.
Defense if Your Child Support Order Is Unfair or You Are Facing Legal Consequences for Unpaid Child Support
The State of Georgia cracks down hard on parents who are in arrears with their child support, imposing criminal penalties, wage garnishment, and even suspending a parent’s drivers’ license to get them to pay. The law has recently changed to make this even easier. But sometimes, the State’s actions are wrong or unfair. We can assist you through the process and ensure that the order for child support comports with Georgia Child Support Guidelines.
Modification of Child Support Orders
Child support orders are always modifiable upon a showing of a change in circumstances. The custodial parent may seek an increase in support payments upon a showing that the non-custodial parent had a pay raise. Conversely, the non-custodial parent may seek a decrease in court ordered child support payments upon a showing that s/he lost a job, had a decrease in pay, became disabled and unable to work, or other compelling circumstances. In order to have court ordered support payments modified, the requesting party must go to court and request a change. This is done by the filing of a Petition for Modification. Thus, the change is not automatic, and the court will not make the adjustment on its own.
Department of Child Support Services aka Child Support Enforcement
All counties throughout the state of Georgia have local child support departments that are empowered to enforce child support orders. The Department can enforce existing orders, and it can initiate support proceedings on its own. It can also set proceedings to modify or increase existing support orders, as well as go after parents who are behind, or in arrears, with regard to their court ordered child support obligations.
In theory, the Department represents the county and not any individual party or litigant. However, in practice, the party against whom the orders are sought will be fighting the county if s/he is in disagreement with their findings. Thus, it is important to hire a skilled attorney who is familiar with Department procedures, as well as the statutory basis for modification and enforcement of child support orders. I have appeared in cases involving the Department of Child Support Services on numerous occasions, and I have a good working relationship with many of the attorneys who work there. We will aggressively advocate on your behalf.