What are child support obligations?
The child support law in Georgia changed effective Jan. 1, 2007. The new law is based on an income share model that requires consideration of both parties' gross income. Gross income has a very broad definition and encompasses salary, commissions, income from self-employment, bonuses, overtime payments, severance pay, recurring income from pensions, interest and dividend income, trust income, capital gains, gifts, prizes, lottery winnings and income from any other source. Once the monthly gross income of each party is determined, the two incomes are added together to get the combined adjusted income amount. A Child Support Obligation Table is then used to get the basic child support obligation.
(For example, if the father's monthly gross income is $3,000 and the mother's monthly gross income is $2,000, their combined adjusted income is $5,000, of which the mother's income represents 40 percent and the father's income represents 60 percent. The child support obligation for a family with combined adjusted income of $5,000 per month for two children is $1,297. Thus, if the father is the non custodial parent, he will pay 60 percent of the child support obligation, $778.20, or if the mother is the non custodial parent, she will pay $518.80, which is 40 percent of the child support obligation.)
The cost of medical insurance on the child and the cost of work-related childcare will result in the amount of the child support payment being modified with credit being given to the parent who is actually paying these expenses. In addition, the amount of child support may be modified by certain deviations provided it is in the best interest of the child to deviate from the presumptive amount of child support. Examples of deviations may be extraordinary education expenses like private school tuition or tutoring; extraordinary medical expenses; or special expenses, which must exceed 7 percent of the basic child support obligation, such as extracurricular expenses, summer camps, dental insurance, parenting time adjustment or any other appropriate deviation. You can access the guided electronic worksheet used in calculating child support at www.georgiacourts.org/csc. You may also download an Excel® version of the worksheet through this same website.
In addition to the child support payment, the court (or parties by agreement) will also designate what percentage each parent will pay of the child's uncovered medical and dental expenses. In Georgia, both parents have a duty to financially support the child until that child turns 18, marries, dies or becomes emancipated, whichever occurs first. However, if the child has not graduated from high school prior to reaching age 18, then the obligation to support that child continues until the child graduates from high school provided the child remains a full-time student, but not beyond the age of 20.
May I receive money for the children's college?
The court cannot order parents to pay for college. However, parents may agree to pay child support beyond the age of 18 or to pay for college expenses.
I am currently paying child support to the mother of my child and I recently lost my job. Will the court reduce my child support obligation?
Under the current law regarding the modification of child support, loss of income may be a basis for lowering your child support obligation. Generally, in an action to modify child support, either upward or downward, a party must establish that there has been a substantial change in income or financial status of either party, since the date of the original support order. Once this threshold requirement is met, your obligation to pay child support is reconsidered under the appropriate child support guidelines.
I am currently receiving child support from the father of my child and I know that he just got a large raise from his employer. Will the court increase his child support obligation based upon his raise?
Under the current law regarding the modification of child support, increase in the obligor's income may be a basis for increasing his child support obligation. Generally, in an action to modify child support, either upward or downward, a party must establish that there has been a substantial change in income or financial status of either party, since the date of the original support order. Once this threshold requirement is met, the father's obligation to pay child support is reconsidered under the appropriate child support guidelines.
I am currently paying child support to my ex-wife for my daughter, and I am thinking about asking my girlfriend to become my new wife. If we were to get married, can my ex-wife seek an increase in child support based on my future wife's income?
If an upward change in your financial status can be proven by your ex-wife as a result of your remarriage and contributions by your new spouse to pay expenses, there is a possibility that your child support obligation could be increased. On the other hand, your remarriage may result in a downward change in your financial situation based on your contributions to the support and care for your new spouse, children and/or other dependents. Generally, in an action to modify child support, either upward or downward, a party must establish that there has been a substantial change in income or financial status of either party, since the date of the original support order. Therefore, the impact of your remarriage depends on the specific details of your case.
What factors does the court consider when determining whether to increase or decrease a parent's child support obligation?
If you are paying or receiving child support pursuant to an order entered on or after July 1, 1986, in an action to modify child support, either upward or downward, a party must establish that there has been a substantial change in income or financial status of either party, since the date of the original support order. Once this threshold requirement is met, your obligation to pay child support is reconsidered under the appropriate child support guidelines.
If the child for whom I have been paying child support elects to live with me, can I stop paying child support?
Technically, until such time as your child support obligation is terminated pursuant to an order of the Court, you are required to continue paying support to the child's mother. However, depending upon the specific facts of your case, there is a high probability that a court would terminate your child support obligation if custody of the child is changed to you.
How often can I file to reduce/increase a child support obligation?
You can file for a modification of child support at any time after the original order establishing the support obligation has been entered. However, once child support has been modified by the court as a result of an action filed by you, you cannot file another action for modification for two (2) years from the date of the final order modifying support. If, on the other hand, the court modified child support pursuant to an action brought by your child's other parent, there would be no limitation on when you could file for modification. See also the FAQ about the new guidelines effective July 1, 2006.
Where should I file an action to modify child support?
If the party against whom you are filing the action resides in the State of Georgia, you must file the case in the county where the party/defendant against whom you are filing resides. If the party lives outside the State of Georgia, you may be able to file in the county where you reside depending upon the specific facts of your case.
My ex spouse has filed a Motion for Contempt against me for failure to pay child support. In response to that claim, can I file an action to reduce my child support obligation?
Unless your ex spouse consents, you cannot file a claim for modification of child support under the same case number as the contempt action, and you would have to file a separate action for modification in the appropriate court.
If I file an action to modify my child support obligation downward, can my ex-spouse be ordered to pay my attorney's fees?
Generally, in an action for the modification of child support, the court may award attorney's fees, costs and expenses of litigation to the "prevailing" party, regardless of who files the case. However, where the obligated party, i.e., someone like yourself, files for a downward modification of child support, the law also provides that the court can require you to pay your ex-spouse's attorney's fees and expenses for having to defend the case. Ultimately, it's entirely within the court's providence to award fees or not.
My ex-spouse and I reached a verbal agreement that he or she would pay me more child support. Is it necessary for me to file any action with the court with respect to the increase?
Yes. Until the court modifies the original order on child support, your ex-spouse is not under any obligation to pay the increased amount, and if he fails to pay that support, you would have no remedy under the original order to enforce payment.
If I file an action tomorrow to increase my ex-spouse's child support obligation, will the increase be retroactive to the date I filed the case?
No. Any modification of child support, upward or downward, is effective as of the date of the order establishing the modification except in certain situations where the change is warranted due to an involuntary loss of income.
Can I reduce my child support payment when the oldest child graduates without filing a case?
No. Only a court can modify your child support obligation. While a Court would likely reduce your obligation when a child graduates, you must ask the Court to lower the obligation. Of course, if the other parent consents, this may be done by agreement.