Are you going through the divorce process and have children? Check out these 4 child support tips for guidance, then call our Georgia lawyers to get started.
1. Timeline of Child Support
Oftentimes, clients have reached out to me to ask how long their child support obligation is going to last. It’s a very important question, especially when you’re trying to plan your financial future. You need to know how often and how long this obligation is going to be there for you unless you agree to a longer period. In Georgia, child support is set up by statute, so there’s not a lot a court can do to shorten the time or lengthen the time; it’s set by Georgia law. In Georgia, child support lasts until a child turns 18, marries, or graduates high school. If they’re emancipated and they’re legally an adult at that time, you’re no longer obligated to support that child.
If your child is still enrolled in high school and they’re 18 years old, you would still be obligated to support them financially until they graduate high school. The court does cap that, just so that your child is not in high school for too long and still receiving child support. If they reach the age of 20, then your child support obligation would be suspended, even if they were still in high school, which gives you some protection.
2. Modifying Child Support Payments
A few weeks ago, I had a call from a past client who had previously been through a divorce and had a child support obligation but really felt that that child support obligation was unfair based on the current situation. Unfortunately, he had experienced a change of employment and his income was reduced significantly, and he could no longer afford his child support obligation. We were able to file a modification in that case. Georgia allows for you to file a modification anytime there’s a significant reduction or increase in the other party’s income or in your income. You can modify your child support obligation, also, every two years in Georgia. Even without a show of changes in financial circumstances, you can do that.
Another way to modify child support would be if you had a change of custody. Maybe your children came to live with you, and that was different than what happened in your prior divorce or custody case, and your child support needs to be modified so it would match what you’re doing with your children in your custody arrangement. In order to modify support, you, of course, have to file a petition with the court, the judge will have to sign off on any kind of modification of child support, and you would be able to get access to the other party’s financial records to make sure that it is an accurate calculation. You would also be expected to produce your income records to show details about what your income is, the court is going to sign off to make sure that your new child support obligation is going to match the calculations in the law in Georgia for any child support.
3. Collecting Back Child Support
I got a call the other day from a lady who had not received child support in years, and, of course, her children were in need. They’re in high school now, and there are a lot of expenses that come along with that. She needed help trying to collect the overdue child support obligation. We were able to file a contempt action, which is normally the course that you would go to get your back child support paid and collect on those funds. We were able to file that contempt, get access to the former husband’s current employee records that showed us how much he was making, and we were able to set up a payment plan and get that arranged with the trial judge so that she could start getting those arrearages collected. She was also able to modify the child support obligation to match his current income.
4. Splitting College Costs
Recently, I received a telephone call from a client of mine, very concerned, as his child had just graduated and was moving towards her freshman college year, whether he was going to be obligated to pay some of those college expenses. The short answer is no. In Georgia, child support cannot be ordered against somebody after the age of the majority. Remember, in Georgia, child support can continue past the 18th birthday if the child is still in school, but once the child graduates high school, then you’re no longer obligated unless you previously asked to pay. In Georgia, you cannot be obligated for college expenses unless you have entered into an agreement with your spouse to do so. During a divorce consultation, we would talk with you, especially if you have any children that are reaching the age of majority, about how you want to handle college expenses.
Ultimately, I do have some clients who agree to pay for college expenses for their children. My advice would be to come in and let me look at your particular case. For most people, I would encourage you not to obligate yourself through a contract to keep up with those expenses after your child has reached the age of majority. Those expenses and obligations cannot be modified by the court. They don’t have the jurisdiction to modify, if you lose your job or become disabled, so, if you agree to cover those college expenses for your child, you will, for all purposes, forever be obligated to do that, regardless of what happens to your job situation, your health, or any other factors that may come along.
Ultimately, Georgia law does not force you to meet those obligations after your child has reached the age of majority, and Georgia law also does not permit a judge to modify those if you’ve taken those on voluntarily. It’s a very critical issue for you during your divorce proceedings to look at your facts and circumstances, your children and whether they’re going to be going off to college and incurring those expenses. Really give that careful consideration before you ever obligate yourself to something that a judge cannot modify later down the road.
Are you or a loved one in the process of a divorce in Statesboro, Springfield, or Swainsboro and have questions about the 4 child support tips? Contact the experienced Georgia divorce attorneys at Hall & Navarro today for a consultation and case evaluation. We can help get your life back on track.