Georgia family courts order child support payments to help make sure a child’s custodial parent receives financial assistance to raise the child. These payments are legally enforceable and skipping out on them can lead to legal consequences. However, parents who feel they are paying too much in child support or who can no longer make their monthly payments have options.
How Are Child Support Payments Determined?
In January of 2007, the state of Georgia adopted the income shares model to help them determine how much a noncustodial parent should pay in child support each month. This means that each parent’s income will be considered when coming to a conclusion.
This system uses the gross income of each parent. This means their salary, wages, income from self-employment opportunities, income from trusts, worker’s compensation benefits, and any other source of income will be considered. The courts will add each parent’s gross income together and consult the basic obligation table to determine how much of that monthly income should go towards the child’s needs. Then, that amount will be divided between the parents based on what percent of the total gross income they make monthly. If the noncustodial parent makes 70% of the monthly income between both parents, they will be responsible for 70% of the income needed for the child each month as determined by the table and paid via child support payments.
Missing Child Support Payments
It is important to remember that child support payments are legally enforceable. Someone who thinks they will miss a payment should contact the courts beforehand to work out another solution, because the consequences of missing a payment can be severe. The penalties for missed child support payments include but are not limited to:
- Jail time: Someone who misses many child support payments and does not cooperate with the courts to find a solution may end up serving time in jail. This is usually a last resort form of punishment because the courts want to save room in the jails and because a parent serving jail time can’t make money.
- Revoked business licenses: The state of Georgia may decide to suspend someone’s professional licenses if they do not comply with child support payments. Such licenses include teaching licenses, nursing licenses, licenses necessary to run a business, etc.
- Garnished wages: It is legal for Georgia courts to garnish wages from someone who does not comply with child support payments. Up to 50% of a person’s earnings can be garnished from each paycheck to pay child support they’re behind on.
- Suspended driver’s license: Someone who fails to make their child support payments for more than 60 days could lose their driving privileges. Their license may be suspended, or they may not be able to renew it with the Department of Motor Vehicles when that time comes.
- Bad credit: Georgia courts can notify credit bureaus when someone falls behind on their child support payments, which can cause their overall credit score to worsen.
- No tax refund: The government can intercept the tax refund of any parent who is behind on their court-ordered child support payments.
- Liens: Georgia courts can file liens in very serious cases to seize a parent’s bank account, property, or settlements to cover their missed child support payments.
Why Is Child Support Important?
Child support may feel like a punishment to people responsible for making the payments. However, it is important to remember that the child is the most important element of these arrangements. The money is intended to provide the child with adequate care and ensure their well-being. Some examples of ways child support money can be used include:
- Housing, such as making rent, mortgage, or utility payments to provide a safe and comfortable living arrangement for the child
- Clothing, which makes sure the child has adequate outfits for each season and can receive new clothing as they grow
- School, including necessities such as books, supplies, backpacks, lunches, and money to attend field trips
- Food, which is a necessity for all people and is always considered an appropriate way to spend money received through child support payments
The way child support payments are spent can be outlined in the Final Child Support Order granted by the courts.
How Long Are Payments Made For?
Generally, child support payments are required until the child reaches the age of majority and graduates from high school. Therefore, a child who is 19 but is still in high school will still require child support payments on their behalf. However, the noncustodial parent will be relieved of their child support obligations if their minor child passes away or is emancipated through the courts.
Modifying a Child Support Order
Anyone can face hardship when they least expect it, and they may no longer be able to pay the child support payments they were initially required to make. In such cases, the noncustodial parent can petition to have the child support order modified.
To begin this process, the noncustodial parent should enlist an experienced and respected attorney to help them prepare a motion for modification. This motion will need to explain to the courts why existing order should be modified. Orders are often modified because a parent’s income has changed significantly, or because the child’s needs have changed.
The court will then review the motion and determine whether the order should be modified. They may ask for information proving income changes or hardship, which a lawyer can help compile. Note that child support orders can only be modified every 2 years. The courts can wave the 2-year waiting period if a parent loses their job involuntarily or the amount of time the child spends with each parent has to change drastically.
We’re On Your Side
At Daniels & Taylor, P.C., we understand that your ability to make child support payments can change at any time. If you’re facing potential legal consequences for missed payments, reach out to us for advice and experienced legal counsel. Our firm has spent the past 20 years building a reputation for honesty, diligence, and professionalism that can withstand even the most complicated cases. We will review every aspect of your case to help you avoid legal consequences and continue caring for your child. Reach out online or at (770) 285-1673 for a free consultation.