Understanding the Dynamics of Back Child Support in Georgia

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When parents separate, one of their biggest concerns is often what will happen to their children. Child support is a legal way to ensure that children receive the financial support they need to thrive. Unfortunately, not all parents comply with court-ordered child support payments, resulting in unpaid or back child support. In this article, we will provide a comprehensive guide to understanding the dynamics of back child support in Georgia, exploring the economic, legal, and social implications of unpaid child support in this state.

The Economic Implications of Unpaid Child Support in Georgia

The impact of unpaid child support goes beyond the immediate financial stress that it causes. The economic implications of non-payment can be devastating and long-lasting. According to the Georgia Department of Human Services, more than $2 billion in unpaid child support was owed in Georgia in 2020. The problem of child support delinquency rates has been shown to be higher among noncustodial fathers, who may struggle to provide for their children due to lack of employment, health problems, or other financial challenges. Unpaid child support can lead to poverty and lack of access to basic necessities such as healthcare and education, pushing families into the economic margins.

Failing to pay child support can also have broader economic implications on a state and national level. Federal and state governments expend resources to administer and enforce child support orders. These costs often fall on taxpayers. When parents do not make child support payments, families are less likely to be self-sufficient, and the long-term financial costs are transferred to the public.

"So, you can imagine at the rate of, whether it's $500 a month or $2500 a month, 6 months of that starts to dig you a pretty deep hole that you cannot dig out of," noted Ryan Proctor, a partner at Stearns, Montgomery & Proctor.

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Legal Enforcement of Child Support Orders

It is essential to note that child support in Georgia is treated like any other court-ordered debt, and missing a child support payment is a violation of a court order, punishable by law. The Division of Child Support Services (DCSS) is responsible for enforcing child support orders in Georgia. It is a state agency that offers a range of services, including locating parents, establishing paternity, obtaining child support orders, and helping custodial parents collect unpaid child support.

Child support enforcement in Georgia is primarily a function of the DCSS, which is supported by federal funding. The agency operates under federal guidelines and regulations that allow it to take a range of collection actions. In Georgia, the DCSS has the authority to take away a noncustodial parent's driver's license, suspend professional licenses, intercept federal tax refunds, or file a lawsuit to force payment of child support. In extreme cases, nonpayment of child support can lead to imprisonment.

Proctor adds that "The parent who was due to receive the child support can bring an action for contempt. Contempt is a willful violation of a court order. So, if the judge says, 'hey, pay a thousand dollars a month for your child support' and a parent doesn’t do that, even if the other parent says, 'don’t worry about it', the parent that said don’t worry could still file a contempt or an 'enforcement action' against the paying parent and collect all of the support that was due under the child support order."

Modifying Child Support Orders in Georgia

Child support orders in Georgia are meant to be fair and practical, but they may not always reflect the current reality of the child’s life. A change in income, caring for another child without support, change in custody, or a sudden financial burden may require modification of a child support order. The parties’ agreement or court order can modify a child support order.

To modify a child support order in Georgia, a parent must file a motion with the appropriate court, provide evidence of the changed circumstances, and attend a court hearing. The court will examine each party’s income, living expenses, and the children’s best interests when deciding whether to modify child support.

The process of modifying a child support order can be confusing, and it is advisable to seek legal advice. An experienced family lawyer can help a parent understand the legal implications of a child support order and work to ensure that it is fair to both parties.

Take Action

Child support and back support payments are critical issues in helping children build a promising future and ensuring that their essential needs are met. Nonpayment of child support can have severe consequences on children and custodial parents alike. Georgia's laws and enforcement entities are specifically designed to help custodial parents collect unpaid child support. However, there is also a need to help and facilitate noncustodial parents to meet their obligations, as it would only set them up for feasible success and reconciliation.

If you or someone you know is struggling with unpaid child support, please seek legal advice to modify the orders and avoid severe consequences. At Stearns-Montgomery & Proctor, we are committed to working with our clients to provide personalized solutions to their family law needs. Our team of experienced attorneys can help navigate the complexities of Georgia's child support system. Our approach is not just to hold those accountable for their legal obligations, but also to address the underlying issues affecting those defaulting on payment.

Implications Of Non-Payment

It is important to note that nonpayment of child support of any amount, no matter how insignificant it may seem to the paying parent, can have far-reaching consequences on the receiving end. The parent responsible for child support may face severe legal consequences, but the child's future takes priority. The custodial parent and child may have to adjust to a lower standard of living, or, in worse cases, experience forced homelessness, bankruptcy, and other economic setbacks.

Another critical point to note is that some noncustodial parents who miss payments may not do so out of a lack of want. In some cases, some noncustodial parents may suffer physical or mental health issues, making it difficult to hold down a job or make timely payments. If anything, legal authorities and enforcement entities need to do more to educate noncustodial parents on the importance of timely payment, rather than expecting punishment alone to stir compliance.

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Don’t Be Afraid To Seek Help

Moreover, providing resources to noncustodial parents, such as job training, healthcare services, and counseling, may enable them to honor their child support payments, which is in the best interest of both the child and the receiving parent.

Parents who cannot keep up with child support payments in Georgia for any reason should seek legal advice to modify the orders and avoid severe consequences. It is up to us to hold those accountable for their legal obligations, but we should also address the underlying issues affecting those defaulting on payment. Georgia's laws and resources are here to create financial stability and security for each child by ensuring they receive life’s basic needs. Remember, seeking legal advice could make all the difference for you and your family. Ensure that you reach out to a knowledgeable attorney for help dealing with back child support to help you get on the right track and reestablish strong family ties.

Whether you are a custodial or noncustodial parent, seeking legal advice to modify child support orders, and working with experienced family law attorneys like those at Stearns-Montgomery & Proctor can help you go a long way in securing your financial future. Remember, children's welfare comes first, and everything else comes second.