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GA Supreme Court Rules Judge Has Discretion to Award Lump Sum Child Support

The Georgia Supreme Court clarified the child support guidelines statute OCGA § 19-61-5 concerning judicial discretion when awarding child support payments. The court held that a trial court judge has discretion to award the lump sum payment of a child support obligation should the circumstances of a divorce warrant such an award.

A Georgia father appealed from his May 20, 2009 divorce decree that awarded the mother a lump sum support payment calculated by determining the amount of child support the father would be required to pay on a monthly basis and then factoring in the age of the children. After a single subsequent modification of the child support obligation adjusted after the mother appealed, the father was eventually ordered to pay a $201,960 lump sum child support payment.

The court awarded the lump sum child support payment based on several factors specific to the couple's situation. The couple had married on December 21, 2004 and subsequently had two children together. The mother remained a homemaker while the father worked as a senior systems engineer. After separating on two occasions in 2007, the mother filed for divorce and shortly after the husband was arrested for possession of child pornography and sentenced to serve five years in a federal penitentiary.

The husband argued that the conviction would cause a substantial hardship upon his release because he would be forced to register as a sex offender and would be limited in his employment opportunities. While the court agreed with the basis of his argument, they ruled that his future earning potential would not be quite as dire as he predicted. When calculating the lump sum payment, they also took into account a $422,000 inheritance the father had received in 2007.

Source: Legal.com "Mullin v. Roy" Decided by the Supreme Court of Georgia," 9/20/10

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