In Georgia, regardless of whether parents are married or not, both have a duty to support their children. When married parents go through divorce proceedings, child custody and child support are one of the central pieces of divorce negotiations. The children of unmarried parents also have a duty to support their children and one can be compelled, by court order, to pay child support to the other for the benefit of their children.
Georgia has established guidelines and a calculator to determine what one parent must pay to the other for the health, maintenance, and well-being of their children. Your Georgia child support lawyer will walk you through applying the guidelines to determine the amount of support owed to your children. Once approved by the judge, a child support order will be entered that dictates the amount of support owed and to which parent it is owed.
Failing to pay court-ordered child support can have serious consequences. Even if you've lost your job and are unable to pay the amount set by a child support order, you are still obligated to do so until a modification of that order has been made.
Georgia courts are able to enforce child support orders through what is called an order or finding of contempt. A finding of contempt means that you are willfully not following the order of the court and can result in, among other penalties, the loss of your driver's license, an order for automatic deduction of child support from your paycheck or bank account (garnishment) and even jail time. Yes, you can go to jail for the willful failure to pay court-ordered child support in Georgia.
If your children are not receiving court-ordered child support, you have legal options to force the parent to pay. If you are the parent who has been accused of failing to pay court-ordered child support, it is likely that you will have to defend yourself in a contempt hearing. An experienced Georgia child support contempt attorney can advise and represent you in either situation.
Currently, the state of Georgia does not provide legal representation for those who cannot afford their own attorney in a child support contempt hearing. A class action is pending to determine whether it must.