Georgia Child Support Process

The law requires parents to support their children financially, whether the parents live together or not. Whether the parents divorce or were never married, one of the ways that the law can ensure that children are provided for is through child support orders. Georgia parents looking to obtain child support orders should be aware of the steps they need to take to get and enforce child support orders.

Beginning a Child Support Case

Either parent can open a child support case with the Department of Human Services (DHS) by filling out an application for assistance and paying the application fee. Those parents who receive Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) benefits and some Medicaid recipients may waive the fee. The petitioning parent needs to know the location of the other parent, or have information that will assist the DHS in locating the other parent, when opening the case.

Establishing Paternity

Parents have to establish the child's paternity before the court will issue a child support order. For parents who were married when the child was born, paternity is already established. If the parents were unmarried at the time, a court or administrative order can establish legal fatherhood. If the father will not acknowledge paternity, the court can order genetic testing upon the submission of a sworn affidavit from the mother.

File a Support Order Based on Georgia Child Support Guidelines

After establishing paternity, the parent seeking child support can obtain a child support order from the court. The court will use the state's child support guidelines to determine the amount of child support the parent owes. The guidelines factor in the gross incomes of both parents, the cost of health care and work-related child care costs to determine each parent's support obligation.

The court may deviate from the presumptive amount of support if it finds circumstances warrant it. Some reasons that a court may adjust the amount of support up or down is high or low income for one parent, alimony payments, special expenses for the child and parenting time.

Payment

Parents who have child support obligations can arrange to have the payments withheld from their paychecks through the DHS. State law requires immediate income withholding in most cases.

Enforcement of the Order

Parents who do not pay their child support obligations are subject to several sanctions, including:

  • Interception of state and federal income tax refunds
  • Revocation of driver's, professional, occupational, hunting or fishing licenses
  • Reporting to credit bureaus of delinquencies
  • Seizing of lottery winnings above $2,500
  • Denial or revocation of passports for those who owe more than $2,500

Modifying the Order

Either parent can petition the court to review the order and modify it after three years. If circumstances change significantly before three years pass, a parent may also ask for review.

If you are seeking child support, you may benefit from the advice of an attorney experienced in how judges interpret the Georgia child support guidelines. Contact a family law attorney today who can help you get the support that your child needs.