Georgia Child Support
Georgia child support is similar to child support in most states in that there are guidelines in place to determine child support amounts, child support is withheld directly from the paying parent's paycheck, and support orders may be changed if there is a change of circumstances warranting a change in support levels.
Obtaining Child Support in Georgia
The Georgia Department of Human Services has a Division of Child Support Services (DCSS) that works to help parents to obtain the support their children deserve. Assistance from DCSS is available to all Georgia families and services include help locating absentee parents, help proving paternity and help obtaining, modifying and/or enforcing support orders. Parents seeking aid from the Division of Child Support Services can find their local office on the DCSS website or may obtain an application for services online.
The Division of Child Support Services exists in order to support the best interests of the child. Although they will help parents to obtain a support order from court, they do not represent parents in any court action or provide any legal advice to parents. Further, they provide no aid related to divorce issues, custody agreements or spousal support. As such, parents who have more complex cases or who need assistance beyond applying for basic support may wish to consider speaking with a family law attorney.
Calculating Child Support
In the Georgia Code of Domestic Relations §19-6-15, Georgia has established guidelines to be used when calculating child support. These guidelines are applied in all child support cases unless there is evidence showing that a deviation from the guidelines is in the best interests of the child. This means that parents who create their own support agreement as part of a custody or divorce settlement need to be aware of the guidelines and either incorporate them or have a reason why they did not.
According to the guidelines, the first step to determining support is to calculate the gross income of each parent. From this amount, subtract for pre-existing child support obligations and for the cost of caring for other children to arrive at the adjusted income of each parent. The adjusted incomes of both mother and father should then be added together. This combined income amount is used to determine how much basic support the child should receive in total from both parents.
Georgia's Child Support Obligation Table is a table used to arrive at the basic support amount due to the child. The table consists of a list of different combined incomes along with the total amount of money parents at that income level are expected to spend on their child's basic needs. Each parent is then responsible for paying a portion of this total equal to the percentage he earns of the total combined income. Additions are then made to this basic support amount for the cost of childcare and medical care and subtractions are made if the paying parent spends some time with the child in his or her custody.
For parents who wish to determine what their support obligation will be based on these guidelines and calculations, the Georgia Child Support Commission has provided a number of easy options for calculating child support including a downloadable electronic worksheet and a printable worksheet for calculating support by hand.
Enforcing Georgia Child Support
Georgia state law requires that child support payments be withheld from the paycheck of the paying parent. This means that support is automatically taken from his or her paycheck in order to minimize enforcement problems.
When a parent does not pay, however, there are a number of methods used to help force payment. The judge who issued the support order may, for example, hold the non-paying parent in contempt. Other enforcement methods include taking away a driver's license or professional license, seizing tax returns, and listing the parent on the Most Wanted Child Support Evaders list if the arrears reach $5,000 or more.
Support orders may be reviewed every 36 months to determine if changes need to be made. Parents may also request a review even if 36 months has not passed if there is some significant change in the circumstances of either parent or of the child.
Requests for a support modification can be made to the Division of Child Support Services. DCSS will review the information and determine if they will assist parents by filing a request that the court modify the support order. If DCSS does not make the request for modification with the court, parents may still be free to petition the court of their own accord.
Getting Legal Help
While DCSS provides a great deal of assistance related to child support cases, they will not advocate for parents or work to protect the legal rights of parents. Any parent who wishes to have someone looking out for his or her interests, or any parent who has a more complex case than a basic child support claim, should strongly consider speaking with an experienced child support attorney.