A lot of times, people have real sticker shock when they look at the basic child support obligation. They don’t have any concept of what it actually costs.
Many times, they’ve heard from other people what their child support obligation is and they might be operating under that same assumption that their child support would be the same, but of course you can’t compare two people’s situations, like apples and oranges, especially when you get into the finer details of what the finances are and how different contributions like health insurance or who’s paying travel baseball or things like that, how that’s all going to shake out in the final formula. For a lot of people, just the initial sticker shock of child support can be difficult to process.
Another one is for the person that’s paying child support, a lot of times they feel like they’re enriching their ex-spouse, and of course that just really isn’t the case. Nobody gets rich off of child support unless they’re super wealthy and of course they’re already rich and getting money at different forms from the ex-spouse.
The reason that the current child support laws in Georgia are what they are is because the commission on child support underwent extensive studies on what it actually costs to raise a child and looked at a lot of different factors and by coming up with the mathematical tables that they did, made the determination that this was a fairest way to actually have a non-custodial parent pay for the amount of money that represents what it costs for that child to live at the custodial parent’s house.
If a Parent Paying Child Support Lost His Job, Could Child Support be Modified?
Yes. That is one aspect of the current child support code in Georgia. It makes a remedy for a parent who has had what they call an involuntary loss of income to be able to file something with the court and get into court quickly. That person’s child support case is going to be fast-tracked to get in front of the court for an adjustment as soon as possible.
One problem under the old law was that if somebody filed to get financial relief on their child support because their income went down, they could take forever getting in front of the court because at that time, it was just treated like any other lawsuit but under the current law, their child support didn’t get adjusted down until they can get a new order from the court.
All this time, they’re waiting for their court date, then their child support payments are just accruing and they’re still going to owe that money that has accrued as arrearages and it just really wasn’t helpful to these people that needed some type of financial break. So, under the current law, there is a statute that allows somebody with an involuntary loss of income to be able to quickly get in front of the court for a quick temporary modification downward on their child support.
Eventually, the case will come for a final hearing and if their financial situation still hasn’t improved, then the court very well might just modify it downward on the final basis or on a permanent basis.
How Does Child Support Work for Parents that are Not Married?
When people have children out of wedlock, they still have financial obligations to the children that they bring into the world. So, let’s say man and woman had a child out of wedlock and then they wind up ending their relationship, and let’s say the mother wants to pursue the father for child support, she files what is called a paternity action against the father.
What that does is it establishes him as the biological father of the child and therefore it gives her the right to pursue child support against him. The father can then, if he wants to, turn around and counter sue the mother for legitimation which allows him to obtain legal rights to the child so that he can have visitation or even custody. In Georgia, for parents of a child born out of wedlock, the mother has sole and exclusive rights to the child unless the father files a legitimation and obtains legal right.
What About Retroactive or Back Pay for Child Support?
In Georgia, there is really no such thing as back child support because it is too speculative in nature. Child support order just simply cannot start until there’s been evidence presented to the court and the court issues an order but there is an exception that allows people to recoup some of their expenses that they’ve incurred for a child.
There is a case called Weaver v. Chester that says that if a parent has incurred expenses on behalf of a child prior to the issuance of a child support order such as diapers, clothing, food, daycare, it’s pretty easy to document what children’s expenses are. The key is just to documenting and keeping receipt, but if the parent does that and then comes in to show the court, “These are the expenses that I have incurred for this child while I’ve been waiting for a child support order”, the judge can order the other parent to pay those expenses.
Usually, what I’ve seen courts do is they’ll split the expenses but I had a client who was very organized and she had kept every receipt that she had spent on the child until she could get into court, and it was about a year’s worth of receipts and the judge gave her the reimbursement, ordered the father to reimburse her. So, that is a roundabout way you can get back child support even though there isn’t such a thing.
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