The Georgia Department of Human Services maintains a list of “Most Wanted Evaders,” indentifying those individuals who owe more than $5,000.00 in child support, have not made a payment in six months, and cannot be located. Publishing this information, while arguably serving the purpose of attempting to help locate the listed individuals, brings a certain amount of public shame and humiliation. However, yesterday’s stereotype of a “dead-beat dad” does not necessarily apply in today’s tough economy.
The unfortunate reality is that many parents today, obligated by a court order to pay a specific amount of monthly support for their children, simply are unable to meet that financial obligation. It is not an intentional neglect of their responsibility, deserving of the moniker “Deadbeat,” but an economic fact of reality.
In Georgia, the amount a non-custodial parent pays in monthly Child Support is typically determined by use of the guidelines established by the Georgia Child Support Commission. In its simplest form, the income of both parents is added together to arrive at the figure that is plugged into the Basic Child Support Obligations Table. The non-custodial parent then pays his or her pro-rata share of support to the custodial parent.
Once the payment of Child Support in a certain amount has been made an Order of the Court, any need to modify that amount must be addressed immediatelywith a formal legal proceeding, ultimately resulting in a subsequent formal Order issued by the Court to change the payment amount. Otherwise, the overwhelming obligation will continue to accrue, regardless of an ability to pay.
Unfortunately, this creates a problem for many unsuspecting individuals, who have involuntarily lost a job, suffered a reduction in income, or naively believed that their ex-spouse verbally agreeing to a reduction in support payments for whatever reason excuses the payment of lesser amount than originally ordered. Georgia is complete with case law that jail delinquent child support payers to be jailed for contempt of court for failure to obey the existing Child Support Order.
However, if legal action is taken immediately upon a loss of income, under Georgia law, O.C.G.A. §19-6-15(j) (1), the portion of child support attributable to lost income shall not accrue from the date of the service of the petition for modification. This exception for relief from is a benefit only if you take immediate legal action when the problem presents itself. If proper legal action is not undertaken, the consequences could cost thousands and thousands of dollars and potentially result in jail time.