- by Mary Stearns-Montgomery
For parents, finding reliable information about child support online can be a challenge. While most states’ child support laws are similar, the specifics vary from one state to the next, and it can often be difficult to tell whether a particular resource is up-to-date on the latest guidelines that apply.
Unfortunately, this has led to the spread of several myths about child support in Georgia. While these myths may sound reasonable, they represent fundamental misunderstandings of the law as it applies both within and outside of the context of a divorce. If you are trying to figure out your rights and obligations regarding child support, below are 3 common myths about child support in Georgia of which you should be aware:
Myth #1: The Father Always Pays Child Support.
Contrary to popular belief, the father does not always pay child support in the event of a separation or divorce. When it comes to establishing parents’ financial obligations, the law does not inherently favor one parent over the other. Instead, it focuses on each of the parents’ respective incomes, earning capacities, and the custodial arrangement (along with certain other factors), and it uses an objective set of guidelines to determine each parent’s financial obligation.
Myth #2: You Cannot Get Child Support Unless You are Divorced.
Another common misconception is that you cannot get child support without being divorced. This is a myth because parents can obtain child support both:
- As a result of a non-marital separation;
- While a divorce is pending; and
- During a Separate Maintenance action
Georgia’s child support laws do not apply exclusively to married couples. They are designed to ensure that children have adequate access to financial resources, and they apply equally to wed and unwed parents. If you are concerned about how you are going to pay for your children’s nutritional, educational, medical and other needs while your divorce is pending, you can petition the court for a “temporary” child support order. If parties opt for a legal separation, known as a Separate Maintenance action in Georgia, child support can be awarded as well.
Myth #3: If You Have a Joint Custody Arrangement, Neither Parent Pays Child Support.
In a joint custody arrangement, the parents will often share equal decision-making rights and substantially-equal parenting time. If you have equal custody, who pays child support? While it may seem that neither parent should pay child support in this type of arrangement, the Georgia courts will still look to the children’s needs and the parents’ respective finances to decide whether one parent should pay financial support to the other.
Bonus Myth: Child Support Payments End When a Child Reaches Age 18.
While the general rule in Georgia is that child support ends at age 18, this is not always the case. There are circumstances where child support can end earlier (i.e. if a child becomes emancipated); and, if a child has not yet graduated from high school, child support can continue until age 20. Learn more about Georgia’s unique rules for when child support ends.
Speak with a Georgia Child Support Lawyer at Stearns‑Montgomery & Proctor
If you live in the greater Atlanta metropolitan area and would like to speak with an attorney about child support, we encourage you to contact us for a confidential consultation. To schedule an appointment at one of our six convenient office locations, please call (678) 971-3413 or inquire online today.