Clayton County Child Support Lawyers Helping Clients Create, Enforce, and Modify Child Support Orders
Financial support is an important part of caring for a child, and it’s a burden that is meant for both parents to share. However, it’s not uncommon for parties to evade child support or not be aware that they qualify to receive payments. The state of Georgia has very specific guidelines for how a child support case should be handled and how the payment amounts are calculated.
How Is Child Support Calculated?
In Georgia, calculating child support is done by taking the incomes of both parents and determining their percentage share of the cost to financially support a child. The state has guidelines on what that cost is, and the percentage share is applied to that number. This determines who pays and receives child support and how much. However, this is just the basic child support obligation. It is possible for this amount to be adjusted up or down based on other factors and expenses, including child care. Some expenses, such as paying for college, aren’t part of a child support agreement but can be addressed in special cases or by agreement.
Is It Possible to Have a Child Support Agreement Without Court?
While child custody can be a contentious subject, there are many parents who are able to have amicable relationships after they go their separate ways. If you are one of these people, you may be wondering if you can just agree to a child support amount between yourselves and not have to worry about court or a formal child support order. Technically, you can do this, but it’s something we advise our clients against for several reasons.
While you may be able to have a positive co-parenting relationship now, there’s no guarantee of that continuing in the future. It’s not uncommon for co-parenting relationships to sour as the children get older, financial changes happen, or a new partner comes into play. Without a court order, you have no protection against someone not paying.
A court order is also important to protect the paying spouse, as payments that don’t go through the Division of Child Support Services don’t count toward your official obligation. This could mean that by the time you get a court order in place, you are hundreds or thousands of dollars in arrears.
Do Custody and Visitation Affect Child Support?
Custody, visitation (more commonly referred to as parenting time), and child support are three separate issues. In general, it is possible for custody or parenting time schedules to affect child support, but not vice versa. For example, in a sole custody arrangement, the noncustodial parent usually pays the custodial parent child support. But if the parents have a shared custody agreement that results in a roughly equal time split with the children, there may be no child support paid to either party.
On the other side, a parent who doesn’t pay their child support cannot be withheld from the children by the other parent. Child support enforcement is handled by the courts and doesn’t involve changes to the parenting time schedule or custody except in extreme circumstances where the paying parent ends up having to serve jail time.
How Do I Request a Modification to an Existing Child Support Order?
If you believe that the child support agreement currently in place is no longer an accurate representation of the current financial situation of the parents, you can request a modification. Either party can request that the Division of Child Support review the case to see if an adjustment is warranted. This is commonly done when one of the parties’ incomes has changed significantly or several years have passed since the last review. If either party disagrees with the resulting decision, they can petition for the case to be heard before a magistrate in the family court. While it is possible to go through this process without a lawyer, having legal representation can ensure you understand what the odds are of your support order increasing or decreasing and that you are prepared to take further action if necessary.
What Happens If the Parent Doesn’t Pay?
If a parent doesn’t keep up with their child support payments, they are subject to child support enforcement measures. This can include garnishments, tax refund interceptions, suspending your driver’s license, and even jail time. It’s very important to keep up with your payments and to talk with the child support agency as well as an attorney if you are not able to meet your obligations.
There are many myths and misconceptions about how child support is handled in the state of Georgia, and the best source of information is a child support lawyer. Whether you are filing for child support, want to modify an existing order, or are facing enforcement measures, the legal team at Lunn Law LLC can help. Call 770-762-4628 today.