Child support requirements and regulations can vary from state to state. If the child moves from one state to another, the requirements for child support may change. While the states may have similar child support laws, it is important to know their variations to make sure that you do not face penalties.

Who Needs to Pay Child Support?

Child support is the payment made to take care of the needs and education of a dependent minor child. Typically, when only one parent has custody of the child, the other parent pays support payments. However, in Georgia, child support is set by the income of both parents. Therefore, even when both parents share custody of the child, the parent that makes more money may still have to pay child support payments to the other parent.

How Do You Petition for Child Support?

Married parents typically handle the child support and custody during their divorce cases. Couples who are not married may file a lawsuit to determine custody and child support. The Georgia Division of Child Support Services (DCSS) lists steps for file a custody case:

  1. Open a child support case with DCSS
  2. Locate the other parent 
  3. Make sure of who the father is by having a paternity test, in cases of doubt or non-marriage
  4. File a lawsuit and determine child support payments
  5. Set-up how to receive the payments
  6. Make sure the parent pays the child support

State law requires the parents to make a parenting plan, separately or together, and submit it to the court. The plan includes:

  • The parents understand the child’s needs now and that they will change as he gets older
  • A relationship with each parent is necessary
  • The parent where the child lives makes the day-to-day decision
  • Both parents have the right to their child’s records and information, and
  • Who has the child for holidays, birthdays, and vacation

The judge reviews the parenting plan and looks at certain factors to determine child custody and support. The court considers both parents’ income, employment, medical insurance, as well as the best interest of the child based on the parents’ behavior and relationship with the child. If a child aged 11 to 13 years old makes her desires known, the judge may take them in to consideration when making his custody decision.

What If You Don’t Pay Child Support?

Child support payments are set by the court. Non-custodial parents must pay on time. The consequences for late payments or not paying child support can be:

  • Fines
  • Taking the money directly out of your paycheck or income tax refunds
  • Liens (put a debt on your property until you pay or take your property as payment)
  • Jail time
  • Suspension of your license
  • Not able to get or renew your license
  • Interest added to the overdue child support payment

A judge may decide not to add interest to late child support payments if:

  • There is a good reason for not paying
  • Adding the interest would be an additional hardship to the owing parent, or
  • Interest would hurt the person’s ability to pay the current child support

What Recourse can the Other Parent Have if You Don’t Pay for Support?

A parent can sue for “back child support” for any unpaid child support payments. The DCSS agent assigned to your case decides what actions to take to get your owed payments from the non-custodial parent. Agents usually try administrative options first – taking money out of his paycheck, suspending her drivers and work licenses, or withholding a tax refund check.  If the parent still does not pay or the options do not fully pay the overdue amount, a DCSS and the parent seeking the money may file a lawsuit for the owed money.

How Can You Stop Paying Child Support?

A judge decides which parent pays child support as well as the amount of the payment. Change in the circumstances of a child or parent’s life may require the need to for the child support payments to decrease or stop completely. Circumstances such as:

  • Paying parent losing his job
  • Paying parent getting a serious illness
  • The child may now live with the paying parent
  • Testing proves he is not the father 

In the case of married parents, the law assumes that the husband is the father of the child. If paternity testing proves that he is not the father after a child support order is in place, it may be a reason to stop paying.

Paying parents must use legal methods to stop paying their child support obligations.  You must go back to court and let a judge stop the payments.  If you stop making payments on your own because of your changed circumstances, you will be in violation of your court order.

Where Can You Find the Right Lawyer?

If you feel like your rights as a parent are being violated, then contact a Georgia child support lawyer today to understand your options and rights for child support and custody.