Family Law FAQs
The following information is a list of Frequently Asked Questions concerning family law matters in the state of Georgia. Click on any of the questions below to navigate to a more detailed explanation on the topic.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can the court reduce my child support obligation if I lose my job or if my income is reduced?
If you lose your job, Georgia law gives you the right to immediately file a petition to modify your child support obligation. A parent generally have to wait at least two years after filing for a previous modification of child support to file a new request. However, a parent that loses a job or suffers another hardship that results in a loss of at least twenty five percent (25%) of that parent's income may file for modification of child support right away -- whether or not two years have passed.
In addition, the filing parent's child support obligation will stop accruing at the original rate once the request for modification is served on the other parent. The portion of the paying parent's child support obligation attributable to the lost income will not accrue (meaning that debt will not continue to pile up) as soon as the other parent is served.
Therefore, if you have lost your job or your income has been reduced, you should speak with an attorney about filing a medication as soon as possible before you start accumulating unpaid child support and risk your ex-spouse filing for contempt.
Can my ex-spouse be ordered to pay my attorney's fees?
In an action for the modification of child support, the court may award attorney's fees, costs and expenses of litigation to the parent who wins (the prevailing party), regardless of which parent files the case. Whether to award such fees is within the court's discretion, unless a custodial parent files to increase child support based on the other parent's failure to exercise visitation rights. If the custodial parent wins in this type of case, the statute says that the court "shall" award fees. Therefore, it is apparent that a parent should always exercise his or her visitation rights whenever possible.
Can the court increase my ex-spouse’s child support obligation because he/she got a raise in their income?
It depends on the facts, including the size of the raise. In an action to modify child support, the filing parent must establish that there has been a substantial change in the income and financial status of either parent. In the alternative, the filing parent must show a substantial change in the financial needs of the child since the date of the original support order. If the substantial change requirement is met, your ex-spouse's child support obligation will be reconsidered by the court under the Georgia child support guidelines.
If I get remarried, can the court increase my child support based on my new spouse's income?
It depends on the facts presented. In an action to modify child support, the filing parent must establish that there has been a substantial change in income and financial status of either parent -- or in the financial needs of the child, since the date of the original support order. If the filing parent can prove that the remarriage resulted in a substantial increase in your income, there is a possibility that your child support obligation may be increased. However, it is not uncommon for remarriage to result in a downward change in a parent’s overall financial situation. For example, if you have increased your financial responsibility for your new spouse, your new spouse’s children and dependents – this should also be considered by the court.
What factors does the court consider when determining whether to increase or decrease a parent's child support obligation?
In an action to modify a child support order, either upward or downward, a parent must prove that there has been a substantial change in either parent's income and financial status -- or in the child's financial needs since the original child support order was entered. A parent must wait for two (2) years after making a previous request to modify child support to ask for a subsequent modification. There are three (3) notable exceptions to the two (2) year rule where an action to modify child support can be filed at any time. These exceptions are:
- the request for modification is based on the parent's involuntary loss of income. This is usually in the form of reduced income or the loss of a job; and/or
- the noncustodial parent has failed to exercise court-ordered visitation, and/or
- the noncustodial parent has exercised more visitation than the court ordered.
If any of the above three conditions are met, an action to modify child support is reconsidered under the Georgia child support guidelines, based on each parent's income and time spent with the child.
Can I reduce or stop my child support payment when a child graduates from high school or turns eighteen (18) years of age without filing for a modification?
No. Only a court can modify your child support obligation. While the court will likely reduce your obligation when a child graduates from high school or turns eighteen (18) years of age, you must file for a modification to legally lower or terminate the child support obligation.
Can I stop paying child support if the child comes to live with me?
Until your child support obligation is legally terminated by a court order, you are required to continue paying support to the other parent. Fortunately though, it is likely that the court will terminate your child support obligation once the court has had time to consider a motion for a modification based on these facts.
How often can I file for a modification to reduce or increase a child support obligation?
You can file any time after the original child support order is entered, as long as there has been a substantial change in the financial statute and income of either parent -- or in the financial needs of the child. Once you file a motion to modify child support, you cannot file for modification again until two (2) years have passed, unless one of the recognized exceptions (discussed above) applies.
Do I have to file for modification if my ex and I have agreed that he will pay more child support?
Yes. Until the court modifies the original order on child support, your ex-spouse is under no obligation to pay the increased amount. If he or she fails to pay the support agreed to, you have no remedy under the original order to enforce your right to payment.
When I file a petition to increase my ex-spouse's child support obligation, will the increase be retroactive to the date the case is filed?
No. Any modification of child support (upward or downward) is effective as of the date of the order modifying the child support. The only exception to this rule is when a parent files to modify child support based on an involuntary job loss or other loss of income. In that case, the portion of child support attributable to the lost income will stop accruing as of the date the parent files to modify child support and the other parent is served with the petition.