Once ordered, child support is always subject to modification. The statute governing child support modifications in Georgia is O.C.G.A. 19-6-15. Sub-section (K) of the statute outlines some requirements that you must prove before the court will consider an upward or downward modification of child support.
The general rule of thumb for when you can go back into court to modify is 2 years from the date of your child support order. However, you can move up this timeline if there is a change of circumstances. A change of circumstances is defined as a significant change in income, financial status of either parent or for the needs of your child. Another reason to request an upward modification of child support is if a non-custodial parent has failed to exercise his or her court ordered visitation.
If a non-custodial parent, through no fault of his or her own, loses a job or takes a cut in pay, the court will consider a downward modification of child support. It is possible, in this scenario, to request an expedited hearing and to ask the court to pro-rate the decrease in child support back to the date that your petition for a modification for downward child support is filed.
Typically, a temporary hearing can be scheduled approximately 30-45 days from the day a petition to modify child support is filed. At the temporary hearing, attorneys can seek a temporary reduction in the child support amount while the parties argue over what the final number should be. Sometimes, there may be complicated discovery or income issues that need more time than 30-45 days to properly prepare for a hearing. A good rule of thumb is to plan for 3 months for the entire process from beginning to end. The new amount of child support typically starts on the 1st month after the order, and does not apply retroactively to the date of filing the petition unless agreed to by the parties or ordered by the court.
The Court can award attorney’s fees in child support modification cases based upon its discretion. The law says that in proceedings for the modification of a child support award pursuant to the provisions of the child support guidelines, the court may award attorney’s fees, costs, and expenses of litigation to the prevailing party as the interests of justice may require. Where a custodial parent prevails in an upward modification of child support based upon the noncustodial parent’s failure to be available and willing to exercise court ordered visitation, reasonable and necessary attorney’s fees and expenses of litigation shall be awarded to the custodial parent.
For a fixed $100 consultation fee, the attorneys at Bivek Brubaker & Prescott can give you an idea of how much child support you should be paying based on current circumstances, and give you advice about whether or not it’s worth pursuing a change in the child support order in Court. We approach everything from a cost benefit analysis to make sure our client’s come out ahead in child support modification cases. Call us today to get started!