Child Support Collections in Georgia
Child Support Collections in Georgia
This article discusses how to collect past due child support payments and how to get help if you are behind on child support payments. Learn about Georgia child support payment laws, potential penalties, and services.
What Happens if the Non-Custodial Parent Fall Behind in Payments?
Child support collections and enforcement is a hot topic these days. Under Georgia child support laws in 2023, the parents of a child are are equally responsible for the support of their child(ren). In Georgia, this remains enforceable until children reach the age of 18 or graduate from high school (whichever comes later). Per the GeorgiaDivorceOnline.com website; " Each installment of court-ordered child support is to be paid according to the date set out in the order. When a person does not comply with the order, the overdue payments are called arrearages or arrears. Judges have become very strict about enforcing child support orders and collecting arrearages. While the person with arrears can ask a judge for a downward modification of future payments, the judge will usually insist that the arrearage be paid in full, either immediately or in installments."1
Child Support Enforcement and Collections
There are several options to pursue child support enforcement and collections. Obviously, the most reliable route is to hire a family law attorney. A lawyer represents your interests and will push for the outcome you want. Sometimes a spouse with payment problems can be motivated with a letter. Other times your child support lawyer may need to prepare and file a formal Motion for Contempt. The motion will push the matter into the legal system for action by a family law court.
If you choose to arrange a Free Consultation with a lawyer, be sure to ask about the possibility of Fee Shifting. Fee shifting is basically a judge directing the other party to pay for your legal fees.
If You Cannot Afford a Lawyer
Relying on State help, if you can get it, can be frustrating and take a lot of time to generate results. If you cannot afford a lawyer, this may be your best option.
Free Help in Georgia may be found via the The Parental Accountability Court Program which works to remove issues causing non-custodial parents to become chronic non-payers of child support.
The Georgia.gov website describes this program as, "Accountability Court assists to transition non-custodial parents with barriers to self-sufficiency through parent accountability, employment and education. Services offered through Parental Accountability Court include substance abuse treatment, job assistance and placement, short-term training, coaching and mentoring, educational services, and Georgia Work Ready as an alternative to incarceration."2
Working on a plan with the non-custodial parent can save a lot of time and aggravation. Obviously the needs of the children are what matter, but working together sets a good example for the children. In order for this approach to work, both sides must communicate openly and honor the agreement. If the non-custodial parent is simply being defiant the custodial parent should hire a family law attorney.
Hiring a family law attorney will certainly get things moving. Because it becomes a legal matter, the non-custodial parent can no longer avoid the situation. You will get results when you hire a good lawyer.
What Are Potential Consequences of Non-Payment?
There is a wide range of penalties and consequences for chronic failure to pay support payments. THe following are the most common penalties family law courts use to get delinquent parents to pay up.
- Withholding child support from paychecks, unemployment or weekly worker’s compensation benefits
- Offsetting federal and/or state income tax refunds
- Reporting the parent’s delinquent child support payments to the three credit reporting bureaus
- Suspension or revocation of a NCP’s drivers’, professional, occupational or recreational hunting or fishing licenses for their failure to pay child support as ordered
- Intercepting lottery winnings when they exceed $2,500
- Filing contempt actions in your local county superior court could result in a jail sentence.
- Filing of liens to seize certain bank accounts, worker’s compensation settlements, and real or personal property
- Denial, suspension or revocation of the passport of someone who owes more than $2,500 in child support
If payments are over 30 days in arrears the potential consequences are more severe. The Georgia Legal Aid website states that your lawyer can "file a Criminal Abandonment Warrant. If the other parent does not pay any support for more than 30 days, he or she can be charged with abandonment. Contact the Clerk of Courts in your county to find out how to file these charges. If the other parent is found guilty, he or she may be placed in jail. "3
Changing Support Payment Amounts
Changing Child Support Amounts
Filing for a divorce modification is how to pursue changing the amount of child support payments due each month.
What has to happen to get payment amounts changed? Per the DivorceNet website; "Generally, in an action to modify child support, a parent must establish that there has been a substantial change in the income and financial status of either parent, or in the financial needs of the child, since the date of the original support order."4
Help for People Behind in Support Payments
There are obviously many reasons a person, even morally responsible, can fall behind on child support payments. In such instances it would be great if ex-spouses can work together to find solutions. when things get heated, and potential consequences are looming, you should explore solutions.
The main goal is to get caught up and be able to maintain a status of current for payments. Here are things you can do to manage your situation:
If you’re facing contempt charges you need to hire a family law attorney. Things are now formal, decisions will be made, undesireable consequences are probable. Hiring a lawyer can mitigate the fallout including fines and jail time.
Few if any law firms offer pro bono (free) legal services for child support issues. It’s worth noting that the cost of a family law attorney is better than going to jail and losing oyour job, paying high fines . . . and still owing the past due money.
If the root of the problem is beyond your control (i.e., loss of job, injured, etc.) your lawyer may be able to get the payment amounts reduced.
If you and your spouse can work it out you need to have a plan. You need to catch up on overdue payments (payments in arrears) while also making full payments. Your best option may be a better job or a second job.
If you don’t have money for a lawyer and your spouse won’t work with you you may want to contact the Georgia Division of Child Support Services. Their website offers these encouraging words, "The Georgia Division of Child Support Services (DCSS) understands that there are varying reasons why child support obligations can be hard to tackle. DCSS is devoted to helping you understand and smoothly navigate potential challenges."5
File bankruptcy? Child support payments in arrears cannot be wiped out by filing for bankruptcy. Past due child support is a forever kind of thing.
If you’re having problems with support payments in arrears (paying or collecting) we invite you to contact a family law attorney for legal help.
CREDITS and FOOTNOTES
- 1 Staff Writer, "Enforcement of Child Support Orders in a Georgia Divorce", June 7, 2023, Available from GeorgiaDivorceOnline Website
- 2 Staff Writer, "Parental Accountability Court Program", September 27, 2023, Available from Georgia.gov Website
- 3 Staff Writer, "Collecting Child Support: A Guide For Parents" August 29, 2012, Available from Georgia Legal Aid Website
- 4 Kristina Otterstrom, "Modification of Child Support in Georgia", October 4, 2022, Available from DivorceNet Website
- 5Staff Writer, "Having Trouble Paying Child Support?", April 23, 2021, Available from DCSS Website
- Photo by Artem Beliaikin, available at Unsplash