Child Support Process in Georgia
Collecting Child Support When You Can’t Afford a Lawyer
The majority of the information provided here is available on the website of the Division of Child Support Services. We are providing this information as a public service for parents needing public assistance collecting child support.
We know there are people who simply do not have the money to hire a divorce lawyer for problems like collecting child support. For these parents, the Division of Child Support Services offers assistance. To see if you qualify you can submit an application online and pay a non-refundable $25 application fee.
Is it better to hire a divorce lawyer near me? Hiring a skilled local divorcelawyer will assure you of more personal service and a dedicated effort versus dealing with a State employee with a massive burden of cases to work. Another benefit of hiring a local divorce lawyer is that they will be familiar with your situation and better able to help you with other needs such as filing a divorce modification.
Opening a Child Support Case
To open a case, either parent can call Child Support Services (CSS) and schedule an appointment. Anyone who gets help from the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program or receives certain Medicaid benefits can get help from CSS without having to apply. Others must complete an application form and pay an application fee. Applications are available from all CSS offices. You may call any office and ask them to mail you the application or you may access the application on-line.
Locating the Non-custodial Parent
To get a support order, establish paternity or enforce a child support order, CSS must know where the non-custodial parent lives and/or works. It may take several months to get child support if you do not know where the other parent lives or if the address is out of state. There is no guarantee the other parent will be found. The more information you provide, such as the other parent’s date of birth and social security number, the easier it will be.
Paternity means legal fatherhood. Before the court can order child support and medical support, paternity must be established. If the parents were not married when the child was born, the biological father can be made the legal father by an administrative or court order. If the man is unwilling to admit paternity, the mother must sign a paternity affidavit before genetic testing and/or a court hearing can be scheduled. Testing is done by Buccal Swabbing (saliva) or by drawing a blood sample. The test is generally more than 99% accurate.
Establishing a Support Order
A child support order is established based on the Georgia Child Support Guidelines that consider the income of both parents and the number of children. Sometimes other factors may be considered.
Does it matter if the non-custodial parent lives in another state?
No. States cooperate with each other to establish and collect child support. However, the other state’s child support agency and legal system may be involved, which may cause a delay.
What about health insurance?If either parent can get medical insurance for the child at a reasonable cost, the court will consider that cost in deciding the amount of child support awarded. Usually, if the non-custodial parent can get health insurance at a reasonable cost, that parent will be ordered to obtain it for the child.
Enforcing a Support Order
When the non-custodial parent does not pay the full amount, or does not pay at all, enforcement action is necessary.
After a child support order is in place, the support amount will be deducted from the non-custodial parent’s paycheck. State law requires immediate income withholding in most cases. This is an easy way for the non-custodial parent to make child support payments. It also provides the non-custodial parent with a record of payments made. If support payments are not deducted from the non-custodial parent’s paycheck, they should be paid to the Georgia Family Support Registry or as directed in the court order and to no one else. It is very important to keep records of the payments that are made.
What happens when the non-custodial parent does not always pay the ordered amount?
If a parent does not obey a support order, he or she may be found in contempt of court. A contempt action may be filed against the non-custodial parent who fails to make support payments or does not maintain the required medical insurance. Non-custodial parents found in contempt of court may be fined, sentenced to jail or both. The judge may order the non-custodial parent who is unable to pay to enroll in the Fatherhood Program.
The child support order may also be enforced through:
- Withholding child support from paychecks or unemployment insurance payments or weekly worker’s compensation benefits
- Intercepting federal and/or state income tax refunds
- Reporting delinquent parents to major credit bureaus
- Suspending or revoking driver’s, professional or occupational licenses for failure to pay child support
- Reviewing and modifying child support orders periodically
- Intercepting lottery winnings up to amounts allowed by Georgia Law
- Filing liens to seize matched bank accounts, lump sum worker’s compensation settlements and real or personal property
- Denying, suspending or revoking passports issued by the State Department
- Requiring the posting of bond to secure payment of overdue support