It takes a lot to determine child support payments that work for parents and adequately cover the child’s needs. The court considers a mix of factors, including the gross incomes of both parents and actually incurred expenses, like tuition, childcare costs, health insurance premiums and extracurricular activity fees. Ideally, the resulting child support order is one that provides for the child—without reducing either parent to financial hardship.
That’s why it’s potentially devastating when the noncustodial parent misses a court-ordered payment or, even worse, misses several payments.
A child support order typically includes a date for monthly payments, like the first of the month or the 15th. When a parent misses the payment, he or she is considered in arrears. The first step is to document the arrears by sending the payer a delinquency notice detailing what he or she failed to pay. The notice will also demand the payer rectify the situation in a reasonable time period. If the parent still doesn’t pay, a Motion for Contempt can be filed, and the court can help collect what’s owed. They can do this by:
The State Department can also deny a passport to someone owing more than $2,500 in back child support. If the noncustodial parent leaves the state, he or she is still subject to child support. Additionally, child support can’t be discharged by bankruptcy.
While the potential penalties for parents in arrears are stiff, the court will always start with approaches that are most likely to get the needed money to the child. This typically means establishing a payment plan. After all, a parent in jail cannot pay child support.
In Georgia, the Division of Child Support Services, part of the Department of Human Services, specifically states its goal to help “remove barriers to payment” by supporting healthy co-parenting, responsible parenting and gainful employment with help from employment service referrals.
When the payer is in arrears, he or she can contest a delinquency notice, citing the loss of work or other financial hardship. Ideally, though, a parent should petition the court for a downward modification of the child support order as soon as he or she loses a job or receives a pay cut.
The court will of course work to determine if the job loss or pay reduction is willful—say the parent is choosing to work fewer hours or could work but chooses not to. But if the parent is unemployed or underemployed through no fault of his or her own, the court may order a reduction of payments.
It’s worth noting, however, that while a reduction changes the amount owed going forward, it doesn’t change what’s already due. That’s why it’s so critical for a paying parent to modify the order quickly after a job loss.
Payers also need to be aware that it’s their job to prove they’ve made required payments, whether those payments go to the court clerk or to the custodial parent directly. Payers shouldn’t pay in cash and they should also request a receipt—needed proof if they’re ever charged with delinquency.
If your child’s parent is missing court-ordered payments, you need help getting the support your child deserves. The child support attorneys at Bivek, Brubaker & Prescott LLC have years of experience dealing with all types of child support cases. Our goal is to help create and maintain a plan that’s in the best interests of the kids involved. Contact us or call (404) 793-6530 today to speak with one of our highly qualified attorneys.