When the court grants a divorce or rules on a child support case, it may order one of the parents to pay the other child support. But as often happens, circumstances change, and they may necessitate a child support modification. In Georgia, judges may grant requests for modifications – either increase or decrease the amount – depending on the circumstances.
But first a parent must prove that either party experienced a significant change in income or other circumstances that warrants the modification. And even though parents generally must wait two years before requesting a child support modification [O.C.G.A. § 19-6-15], there are exceptions.
Child Support Modification in Georgia: Exceptions to the Two-Year Child Support Modification Rule
One exception is if the parent who is making child support payments (noncustodial parent) is spending more or less time with the child than the court ordered. If the noncustodial parent spends more time with – and thus more money on – the child, the judge may grant a decrease in payment amount. If the parent spends less time with the child than ordered, the judge may grant an increase in payment amount.
Another exception is if either parent loses their job or their income drops by 25 percent or more. If this occurs, the parent who lost the job can request a modification hearing. The portion of the child support that is attributable to the lost income will not accrue.
Other Grounds to Request Child Support Modification in Georgia
Otherwise, parents must wait at least two years from the date of the child support order to request a modification.
Just as a noncustodial parent may request a modificatoin if income suddenly declines, if the custodial parent learns the noncustodial parent’s income significantly increased, he or she can request a modification to increase support.
A judge may also increase a child support amount if the needs of the child changed. This may include children who need additional financial support because of a phsycial or mental health condition.
In some cases, if a noncustodial parent who remarries, the custodial parent may request an increase in child support. The custodial parent must prove that the new marriage substantially improves the noncustodial parent’s financial status. This may work in the other direction, too. If the new marriage harms your financial situation, then the court may grant a decrease in child support obligation.
Don't Alter Child Support Payments Without a Court Order
Whatever you do, do not simply stop making child support payments. Do not rely on a verbal agreement with the other parent. Obtain a modification through a court order to protect yourself.
For example, a parent paying child support cannot simply stop paying once the child graduates from school, reaches age 18, or petitions for emancipation. Both parents must first submit a request to end child support payments and the court must grand approval. If a child’s needs continue after the age of 18, such as for special needs support, the court can require the parent to continue to make payments.
So never simply stop paying, or you could be under an obligation to make any back payments. If you are on either side of this issue and need assistance filing and arguing child support modification in Georgia, contact us at 770-383-1973 or fill out our online contact form to schedule your REAL Case Analysis today.