What Can Child Support Be Used for in Georgia?
Georgia's Child Support Guidelines
In Georgia, minor children have a right to receive adequate financial support from their parents. Parents do not have the option to opt out of child support. A parent can apply for child support through the Georgia Department of Human Resources, Division of Child Support Services. This can be done either in person or online. The Division of Child Support Services can also help parents collect child support arrearages (back payments).
Parents may also work out a child support agreement as part of their divorce or custody case. It is recommended that you work with an attorney to ensure that you and your child's best interests are protected.
The courts will use the Georgia child support calculator to determine how much a parent must pay when determining child support amounts. How child support is calculated is outlined in O.C.G.A. 19-6-15(b). According to this statute, child support calculations are based on the parents' adjusted monthly gross income. However, the courts have the jurisdiction to deviate from the calculated amount in certain situations.
Child support deviations are made at the court's discretion and may include:
- A high or low income
- Life insurance
- Other health insurance
- The child and dependent tax credit
- Extraordinary expenses
Determining child support can be incredibly complicated, even with the help of the child support calculator. It can also be a very stressful process, and it is recommended that you have an attorney advising you through the process.
Can Child Support Be Used for Extracurricular Activities?
Yes, child support may be used to fund a child's extracurricular activities in some cases. However, they are not automatically included, and typically, they are decided on a case-by-case basis. Under the previously mentioned statute, extracurricular activities may fall under the extraordinary expenses deviation. According to the law, extraordinary expenses are more than the average amounts estimated in the child support obligation table and vary widely between families.
In Georgia, child support is generally intended to be used for:
- Child care
Qualifying special expenses may include:
- Summer camp
- Music lessons
- Art lessons
- Other school-sponsored activities
Generally speaking, potentially qualifying special expenses will be activities intended to enhance the child's athletic, social, or cultural development. Child support may also be used for visitation costs, such as travel costs associated with a child visiting their other parent. Additionally, it may also be used for medical expenses or for any ongoing special needs a child may have.
How Do I Get My Child Support Lowered?
Once a child support order has been handed down and registered by the courts, you can request a modification. That being said, the courts will only consider a modification to a child support order if there has been a substantial change in circumstances for either parent or the child. Furthermore, this change in circumstances must clearly impact either the parents' ability to pay child support or the child's financial needs.
In cases where a parent has lost a job or suffered some other extreme hardship, they do have an option to file for a modification immediately. If you are in a situation like this, you must reach out to an attorney as soon as possible so that you can quickly file your modification request. Once the request for the modification is served to your child's other parent, your child support obligation will stop accruing at its original rate, thereby saving you from accruing insurmountable debt.
You may be able to seek a modification if you or your co-parent:
- Lost your job or got a new job
- Had a significant change in income
- Had a change in health
- Had another child
- Gained another dependent
Child support orders are meant to serve families in the long term. Once a request has been made to modify child support, parents must wait two years before making another request. Therefore, it is important that you seriously consider your request and speak with an experienced attorney before filing a modification request. You want to be sure that the modification is truly necessary.
What If My Co-Parent Agrees to the Change?
There are situations in which co-parents will agree to decrease or increase the child support one parent pays to the other. However, even if you and your co-parent agree on all modification terms, you will still have to officially file the modification with the courts. The original order is still legally binding until the courts enter the new modification.
Therefore, if the parent ordered to pay doesn't pay the full amount, they can be held in contempt of court. Similarly, if you agree to increase child support, the other parent is not legally obligated to pay anything beyond what the current court order states. It is advised that you always pay the amounts ordered by the courts and use proper channels to seek an official modification. This way, you and your family are legally protected.
If you have issues with your child support agreement, you should speak with one of our attorneys. The courts take child support modifications very seriously, and it can be a difficult process, both emotionally and mentally. Having a strong attorney by your side can make a world of difference. Send us a message online to schedule a consultation.