Child support is the way children are provided with the means and resources they need to grow and thrive after their parents get divorced. At North Metro Litigators, our Alpharetta child support lawyers provide experienced representation to ensure that child support obligations are fair when established, modified when necessary and appropriate, and enforced when a parent fails to meet their responsibilities. We also provide answers to the many questions parents have about child support. Some of the most common questions we hear include:
How is child support calculated in Georgia?
The amount of child support a non-custodial parent will pay in Georgia is calculated using a fairly simple formula based on the total gross incomes of both parents and the number of children needing support. However, that simple formula can become quite complicated when applied, as various kinds of income, tax considerations, efforts to conceal or under-report income, and the particular needs of the children make every child support case unique.
The process begins with the completion of the Georgia Child Support Calculator, which was created to help parents and courts arrive at estimated child support amounts based on the guidelines set forth in Georgia law. Judges have the power to deviate from these guidelines if they determine that doing so will be in the best interest of the child.
Can child support obligations be changed?
After a divorce, either party may petition the court to modify a child support order, but a court will not consider or grant a modification request “unless there is a substantial change in either parent’s income and financial status or the needs of the child.” O.C.G.A. § 19-6-15.
What constitutes a “substantial” change is a fact-specific analysis, but can include:
- Loss of a job
- Decrease in income
- Increase in income
- Increase in the child’s medical or educational needs
- Decrease in the child’s custodial needs, such as no longer needing day-care
Even with a substantial change in circumstances, modification of child support can only be sought once every two years after the last support order was entered. However, exceptions to this rule may be made if the non-custodial parent has failed to exercise court ordered visitation, the non-custodial parent has exercised more visitation than provided in the court order, or if an involuntary loss of income is the basis for the modification request.
Will filing for bankruptcy get my ex out of paying child support?
No. One thing a bankruptcy filing will absolutely not change is any obligation of the filing parent to make child support payments. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceeding, child support and spousal maintenance payments remain the responsibility of the debtor. If your ex files a Chapter 7 petition and fails to make a child support payment that first becomes payable after the date of the filing of the petition, the bankruptcy proceeding could be dismissed and he or she could lose whatever protection and relief the bankruptcy code had provided.
Similarly, in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, child support obligations are treated as non-dischargeable “priority” debts, meaning that they will be the first to get paid in the Chapter 7 plan.
Does child support include college costs?
It can, if the parents agree to contribute to college expenses. But a Georgia judge cannot and will not order a parent to contribute to a child’s educational expenses after high school in the absence of an agreement between the parents. In Georgia, child support obligations typically terminate when the child turns 18 but can be extended to age 20 if the child is still enrolled in secondary school. The child’s marriage or legal emancipation also will end any child support obligations.
If my ex fails to make their child support payments, can I end his visitation rights?
Georgia law imposes several serious consequences on parents who fail to pay child support as ordered. In extreme cases, the “wanton and willful” failure to pay child support for a period of 12 months or more can be the basis for the other parent to seek a termination of the payor parent’s parental rights, including visitation. However, a parent should not deny a non-paying parent visitation rights on their own without seeking relief or enforcement of child support obligations through the courts.
My ex moved out of state and stopped making his child support payments. What can I do?
Georgia, like all states, has adopted the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA). The act facilitates the enforcement of Georgia child support orders by the courts of the state where the obligor resides. One the Georgia order is registered with the appropriate court in the other state, that court can exercise all available remedies to enforce the order as if it was issued in that state.
Can a step-parent in Georgia be ordered to pay child support?
No, unless the step-parent has legally adopted the child. If a step-parent and a biological parent get divorced, the step-parent will not be required to pay child support. That will remain the obligation of the child’s other biological parent.
Speak With an Experienced Woodstock Child Support Attorney at North Metro Litigators Today
These are just a few of the many child support questions parents have when facing divorce. At North Metro Litigators, we provide parents with the answers that can bring clarity and peace of mind. Our Woodstock child support attorneys work with parents to establish fair and equitable child support arrangements which ensure that children have what they need and that parents meet their obligations. We have the skill, experience, and insights to establish a complete picture of the parents’ finances and the child’s needs, and the tenacity to enforce support obligations when they are not met.
If you have additional questions or concerns about child support or have any other divorce and family law questions, please call the Alpharetta child support lawyers at North Metro Litigators today at (678) 944-0000 or contact us to arrange for your free initial consultation. We look forward to helping you.