Child support operates a lot like child custody. As in Child Custody cases:
- It is possible to modify child support after the entry of the Final Judgment and Decree of Divorce or after a subsequent Modification Order.
- Child support can be modified if there has been a substantial change in the income or financial circumstances of either of the parties, or in the needs of the children, and if the modification is in the best interests of the children.
To modify child support you will need to prove:
- There has been a substantial change in the financial circumstances of one or both of the parties
- That the modification is in the best interests of the children
Child support issues are just as complex as child custody and you should never try to solve them without expert legal assistance. To illustrate how complicated support issues can be, here are some of the most popular questions we are asked by clients.
Why do I need a lawyer to modify my child support?
The calculation of child support is extremely difficult, especially if you have a situation like:
- Unusual custody and visitation plans
- A substantial amount of assets
- Very high or very low income
- You or your former spouse have unreported income
- You don’t think your former spouse is being honest about their income
- Your child has special needs
- Your child has extraordinary medical expenses
What is a substantial change in circumstances?
As with custody, a substantial change will be determined by the judge after examining the facts of your case. Instances that will constitute a substantial change in financial circumstances may include an involuntary loss of employment, a substantial involuntary reduction in income on the part of the obligated parent, or significant additional expenses that were not known or did not exist at the time of the entry of the previous order, and that are necessary to address the needs of the child.
How is child support calculated in Georgia?
Child support is based on an “income shares model.” This means that both parents are responsible for supporting the children in proportion to their income level. A Basic Child Support Obligation (BCSO) is set by the state of Georgia for your monthly income level and number of minor children in the family. That Basic Child Support Obligation is then adjusted for the other financial circumstances of your family, and divided between the parents according to the percentage of family income that they earn.
How do you divide the child support between parents?
In Georgia, each spouse is responsible for child support according to the percentage of income he or she earns for the family.
How long will child support be paid?
For the most part, child support lasts until the child graduates from high school and turns 18. If the child turns 18 but is still in high school then the child support continues until age 20. There are a few events that could end child support like the child being emancipated or entering the military.
How will having more than one child affect things?
Unless the parties have agreed otherwise, child support does not automatically reduce when the first child turns 18, and courts usually won’t include an automatic reduction in their child support orders. However, you can go back to court to modify child support for your remaining minor children.
Does child support also cover college tuition?
Not in Georgia, but the parties can agree in the initial divorce that one or both parties will pay for college and the court will enforce that agreement.
What do child support orders cover?
As long as the parents agree, it can cover any potential expense for your children.
Do I have to pay child support if we both have physical custody?
In some cases you will. When your spouse’s income is much lower than yours then you may have to pay so that the children will be comfortable while they stay with your spouse. This is an extremely complex issue and there are a lot of factors to take into account. If you are facing this situation then you need to contact one of our expert attorneys to discuss your case.
Do I pay tax on the child support I receive and can they deduct the amount they pay?
No; in either case.
What do we do if we have a change of circumstance?
Child support can be modified every two years or if you have a substantial change of circumstance for the parents or the child. This would include things like job loss, getting a pay raise, a child developing an illness or a myriad of other factors.
Do we have to go back to court to modify child support?
Yes; although you don’t necessarily need a hearing. If you can agree on the new terms then you can ask the court to enter a Consent Order to modify the child support.
What happens if my spouse and I have agreed that child support will be different than the court’s order?
Child support can only be set or changed by court order, even if the spouses have agreed on a different plan.
Does a judge have to order child support if my spouse and I have already agreed on an arrangement?
No. Judges prefer for a couple to come to an agreement. They will need to review your support plan to ensure it is in the child’s best interests but otherwise it is up to you. To make sure the judge will accept your plan, however, it is strongly advised that you get help from an experienced attorney. Their input will make it much more likely for the court to accept your plan.