The Georgia Child Support Commission has some Frequently Asked Questions on Georgia’s New Child Support Guidelines.
Thanks to Deborah Johnson, of the DeKalb Family Law Information Center, and Jill Radwin for posting these.
1. When does the new law start?
The new law takes effect on January 1, 2007. It will be applied to all child support decisions made after that date, even if the case was started in court before that.
2. If I already have a current child support order, how will I be affected by the change in the new child support guidelines, effective January 1, 2007.
No current order will automatically change, effective January 1, 2007. The only way that a current order will be affected is if a petition to modify is filed or there is a recommendation from the Office of Child Support Services for a modification, pursuant to O.C.G.A. §19-11-12.
3. Besides using the new child support guidelines’ worksheet and schedules, is there anything else I need for the court to decide my case in 2007?
Yes. You will need to bring to court proof of your income and certain expenses, including child care, health insurance for the child, special expenses (i.e., extracurricular activities) for the child, and child support orders for other children and the payment history you have made on those orders.
Don’t forget to bring a copy of the actual Child Support Worksheet and Schedules. If you are calculating child support on the new electronic worksheets, please do not forget to print out a copy of the Worksheet and Schedules before you submit it, via the internet, to the Judge.
4. Where do I get the Worksheet and Schedules?
You can get the manual versions of the Worksheet and Schedules from the following websites, or you can calculate your child support amount on the electronic calculators (worksheets) also provided on the same website. Don’t forget to print out the Worksheet before submitting it to the court. The websites are:
Office of Child Support Services at:
Georgia Child Support Commission, which will have a link to the forms found on the website above, as well as other information, and can be found at:
5. I’m not very good at math. Will it be hard for me to fill out the Worksheet and Schedules?
No. The electronic versions of the Worksheet and Schedules will do the math for you. The “guided version” will walk through the whole calculation by asking you a series of questions. Then, it will fill out the forms for you. When you completely finish answering all of the questions and providing all of the information you will be able to get, you can “submit” the Worksheet & Schedules to the Judge electronically by completing the guided process to the very end.
However, the law also requires you to file the Worksheet & Schedules with the Court Clerk’s office. So, you will want to print out a copy before you electronically submit it to the court. This is because, once you submit it to the Judge over the Internet, you cannot print a copy and you cannot make any changes to it. Be sure to click on the “Printer Friendly” button at the bottom of the Review Page and print out the entire worksheet and schedules.
6. What happens if I do not have all of my information or I have not finished the electronic worksheet the first time I sit down in front of the computer?
Fill out all of the information you can the first time you sit in front of the computer. However, if you do not finish, be sure to click on the button at the bottom of the Worksheet which says, “Save for Later.” You will receive a Confirmation Number near the top of the Page. That is your own unique number. Write it down and store for safekeeping. Every time you get back on the website, enter that number and your worksheet will appear. The website will store your unfinished worksheet for up to one year.
7. If parents already have a court order for child support, will they be able to go back to court and get a new child support order under the new law?
No, not unless there has been a change in the parent’s financial circumstances or in the child’s needs. The change in the law, by itself, is not enough to allow the court to modify the existing child support order.
8. Under our divorce decree, my kids spend the summers with me. Will I be able to get my child support reduced under the new law?
No, not unless there has been a change in circumstances, so that the court can modify the existing child support order. The fact that the law has changed is not considered to be a change in circumstances.
Also, the new law does not give parents an automatic reduction in child support for extended visitation. However, the court will have discretion under the new law to raise or lower the amount of support if extended visitation makes the presumptive amount excessive or inadequate.
9. Where can I go to see the new support table and read the new law itself?
The Basic Child Support Obligation Table is a part of the new law. If you are using the electronic worksheets, the program will automatically put in the amount from the table on your Worksheet after you provide both parents’ incomes.
You can read the new law online at the following addresses: http://www.legis.state.ga.us/legis/2005_06/pdf/sb382.pdf
(the General Assembly website)
or http://www.georgiacourts.org/csc (the Child Support Commission website). You can also read it at local libraries, at local courthouses and law schools.
SOURCE: Georgia Child Support Commission
Too often the parents going through a divorce or custody fight forget how the divorce affects their children. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers publishes the following article on its website:
CHILDREN’S BILL OF RIGHTS
WHEN PARENTS ARE NOT TOGETHER
Every kid has rights, particularly when mom and dad are splitting up. Below are some things parents shouldn’t forget — and kids shouldn’t let them — when the family is in the midst of a break-up.
You have the right to love both your parents. You also have the right to be loved by both of them. That means you shouldn’t feel guilty about wanting to see your dad or your mom at any time. It’s important for you to have both parents in your life, particularly during difficult times such as a break-up of your parents.
You do not have to choose one parent over the other. If you have an opinion about which parent you want to live with, let it be known. But nobody can force you to make that choice. If your parents can’t work it out, a judge may make the decision for them.
You’re entitled to all the feelings you’re having. Don’t be embarrassed by what you’re feeling. It is scary when your parents break up, and you’re allowed to be scared. Or angry. Or sad. Or whatever.
You have the right to be in a safe environment. This means that nobody is allowed to put you in danger, either physically or emotionally. If one of your parents is hurting you, tell someone — either your other parent or a trusted adult like a teacher.
You don’t belong in the middle of your parents’ break-up. Sometimes your parents may get so caught up in their own problems that they forget that you’re just a kid, and that you can’t handle their adult worries. If they start putting you in the middle of their dispute, remind them that it’s their fight, not yours.
Grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins are still part of your life. Even if you’re living with one parent, you can still see relatives on your other parent’s side. You’ll always be a part of their lives, even if your parents aren’t together anymore.
You have the right to be a child. Kids shouldn’t worry about adult problems. Concentrate on your school work, your friends, activities, etc. Your mom and dad just need your love. They can handle the rest.
IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT AND DON’T BLAME YOURSELF.
SOURCE: American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers
Supreme Court of Georgia Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears presented the 2007 State of the Judiciary speech to the Georgia General Assembly on January 26, 2007. The portion dealing with divorce and family law issues in Georgia is set forth in its entirety below:
"I have saved the discussion of family cases for the last because I hope that my thoughts on this subject will stay with you the longest and because it touches my heart the most.
It is difficult to exaggerate the impact that the decline of the two-parent family and the increase in the number of domestic relations cases in the last 20 years has had on the trial court dockets of this state. Divorce has now become a common phenomenon. We now live in a country where over one-third of all of our children are born to unmarried women and where 40% of the children of divorce do not see their father in a typical year. Our prisons are full of young men who have fathered children they will never be able to support. And there are too many children in foster care.
Family cases now account for more than 65% of all civil cases filed in our superior courts, and they now outnumber all felony and misdemeanor criminal cases combined. Some of the driving forces behind the growing domestic relations caseload, in addition to divorce and soaring rates of unmarried childbearing, include child support issues, drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, juvenile delinquency and neglect.
These cases are costly, both directly and indirectly. A study conducted in the year 2000 estimated that divorce proceedings alone cost the state and its citizens between 922 million and one billion dollars. The same study demonstrated that the "average" single divorce cost both state and federal governments approximately $30,000 in direct and indirect costs. Direct costs included expenditures for child support establishment and enforcement, Medicaid costs and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families. Indirect costs included costs associated with drug problems, criminality, mental health services as well as other social problems.
Our trial judges are working hard trying to fill a void that has resulted from this sad cultural phenomenon. They are being asked to do this even though they typically lack the resources and expertise to do much more than pick up the broken pieces after families have already fallen apart. The late great Robin Nash, a former Juvenile Court judge, aptly described the role that judges play in all this as "misery managers." And like doctors on a battlefield frantically working to bandage the wounded and save the dying, they know that the prognosis is not good for most of the families that pass through their courtrooms. That’s because, as yet,
no concerted effort has been made to formulate a comprehensive plan-of-action that will go to the heart of this crisis in our judicial system.
We want to change all of this.
Last June my colleagues and I on the Supreme Court voted unanimously to create the Georgia Supreme Court Commission on Children, Marriage and Family Law to address Georgia’s domestic relations case problems. Some of the members of the commission include leaders of your body.
The commission will study the legal consequences associated with the growing fragmentation of Georgia families. We also plan to work with both our juvenile courts and our state Department of Human Resources to ensure that child deprivation cases be given the priority in the courts that they deserve. The purpose of the commission is not to advocate for any specific legal response to these problems – that is, after all, in your province – but only to highlight the need for some response.
Some people don’t believe there is anything that can be done to help our ailing families. But as leaders in the legislative branch you and I both know that if we look for solutions we will find them. And what we do not yet know how to accomplish, we can learn. Problems, no matter how difficult, must be addressed and not merely endured. To that end, I ask that you join with us in refusing to accept the decline of the two-parent family as inevitable. Because if we do it means we are prepared to accept the weakening of civil society and the spread of social and economic equality; it means we are prepared to accept more and more fatherlessness; it means we are prepared to accept the suffering of children. We can and we must do everything we can to strengthen our families because it is the best way we have to facilitate responsibility, ensure equality, and shape self-governing citizens who may never need to see the inside of a court of law."
Chief Justice Sears has previously spoken out eloquently on the subject of families and divorce in an editorial printed in the Washington Post on October 30, 2006.
SOURCE: Supreme Court of Georgia; Atlanta Journal-Constitution; Washington Post
MSN Money has an article about a new trend of broken marriages where the spouses decide stay together without a divorce for a variety of reasons, mostly financial.
In Georgia, a couple can be granted a separate maintenance decree. I have often (somewhat disparagingly) called this "Divorce Light" because the parties and the court can do everything that can be done in a divorce action except dissolve the marriage.
I have had on several occasions clients whose spouses had medical issues which would have prevented them from obtaining health insurance. Since they had no plans of remarrying again, they agreed to a separate maintenance action by whihc all property was divided, child custody and visitation were established and child and spousal support (alimony) was determined. Because they were still married, the other spouse was still able to be covered by the employee spouse’s health insurance.
It is not a solution for everyone, but it works well in those sorts of cases.
Source: Unhappily ever after: The ‘nondivorce’ – MSN Money.
In Corvin v. Debter, the was over a provision in the parties’ divorce decree that
Husband was to receive $22,000 as his share of the equity in the marital home when Wife either remarried, entered into a meritricious relationship or when the parties’ youngest child turned 18. The record showed that “Wife remarried in 1996, but did not pay Husband the $22,000.” Husband later filed for contempt, and the trial court “found that Wife was in contempt and ordered her to sell the home and pay Husband $22,000 from the proceeds.” Wife contended “that Husband could not recover because the judgment had become dormant pursuant to OCGA § 9-12-60 and that he had not attempted to revive it.”
In affirming the court below, the Supreme Court has ruled that “in her answer to Husband’s motion for contempt, Wife did not raise dormancy as a defense to her obligation to comply with the provisions of the divorce decree,” and that as a result she waived a defense based upon the statute of limitations.
SOURCE: Supreme Court of Georgia