Every parent in Georgia has a moral and legal obligation to support their children. When a parent no longer has primary physical custody over their children, this obligation typically takes the form of child support payments. Family courts typically order a non-custodial parent to pay, and a failure to make support payments can have serious civil and criminal consequences.
However, child support payments are not set in stone. If either parent has experienced a significant change in circumstances, they may petition a local family court to review an existing order. This can result in a modified payment plan that still provides a child with basic necessities while lessening the burden on the paying parent.
An Atlanta, GA child support modification lawyer can guide parents through the process of making legally binding changes to a court order. A skilled child support attorney can help make the legal process easier to navigate and determine if the time is right to make these motions.
A parent owes child support until the child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever happens last. If a child is still a high school student when they turn 20, child support will end on their birthday. Either the paying or the receiving parent can request that child support payments be increased or decreased.
Even if both co-parents agree on a child support modification, they must get Georgia family court’s endorsement of the change. Otherwise, the original order remains enforceable. However, child support modifications are not retroactive. If a parent is behind on payments, they must still pay the full amount of their back child support.
If co-parents disagree about changing the child support amount, the parent requesting the change must file a petition in family court seeking a modification. An Atlanta attorney can represent individuals at the hearing and make the case for or against child support modification.
A court order for child support usually remains in effect until the child reaches adulthood, with some exceptions. However, it is common for the financial needs of a child to change over time. State law allows either parent to request a Georgia court to review their current order as well their proposed changes thereto.
However, a judge would need to evaluate whether a parent’s financial circumstances have changed significantly enough to prevent them from providing for their kids.
According to the Official Code of Georgia § 19-6-15(k)(1), the parent seeking the modification must prove that a significant change occurred since the last child support order. Some scenarios that could justify a change to child support include:
Parents could also seek to modify child support if an expense has decreased, which might happen if a child leaves daycare and begins attending school full-time or leaves private school for public school. A Georgia attorney can help a parent request or defend a petition to modify child support.
Filing a motion to modify an existing child support order in Georgia is a lengthy process. As described above, the process begins with submitting the required paperwork to notify a local judge to review the case. An experienced attorney in Atlanta can walk people through the child support modification process before filing and better prepare them for court hearings.
Unfortunately, sometimes parents try to avoid child support by claiming they earn less than they do. If a co-parent engages in this behavior, individuals can file a petition to modify child support and ask the judge to impute income to the under-earning parent.
Imputing income means the judge will look at what the parent could be earning instead of what they are earning or claim to earn. The judge will consider the parent’s education, work history, the job market in their field, and any current limitations, such as a physical disability, to determine whether the parent is intentionally earning less than they could. If so, the judge could calculate the child support payment based on what the parent could be earning.
Requests to impute income can be complex. An Atlanta attorney can help a parent bring or defend a request to impute income.
The obligation to pay child support is central to family law in Georgia. Every non-custodial parent is likely subject to these requirements, which remain in place unless one party asks for a modification. If your current order is more than two years old, you may request changes at any time. Otherwise, changes may only be made to child support once every two years, unless either parent has undergone a significant change in financial circumstances.
It is essential for you to approach this process with reasonable expectations and the correct paperwork. An Atlanta, GA child support modification lawyer can help you determine whether your proposed alterations are likely to succeed, gather the necessary documentation, and ensure that the entire process goes smoothly. Call our intake team today to learn more.