It use to be, to put it bluntly, if you lost your job and your income declined, you were, not to sugar coat it, screwed in Georgia. This is because by the time the court actually got around to hearing your case 6-9 months will have passed and Georgia courts had absolutely no power or authority to retroactively modify and forgive past child support. Meaning your child support would eventually be modified downward but you would have a debt of child support arrears that you would have to pay that accumulated while you waited for the other party to stop delaying things through procedures and the court finally finding the time to hear your case.
Fortunately, due to changes in Georgia law put in place in 2008 that is no longer the issue. Under the new law, if you involuntarily lose your job or a material part of your income the court now has the power to retroactively reset your child support based upon your reduced income. So for example, if you went from your full-time job to unemployment compensation, you would then only owe the amount of support payable by the income attributed to the amount you receive from unemployment compensation.
To quantify this, if you were making $10,000 per month, but you were involuntarily terminated and your unemployment compensation is now $1,300 per month, the court now can retroactively set your child support based upon this $1,300 per month income.
There is a catch however, and that catch is that this retroactive modification can only take effect from the date that service of process is perfected on the recipient of the child support. Meaning, if you are involuntarily laid off, do not wait around and build up arrears. You need to file a child support modification IMMEDIATELY The sooner the better, as your support can be modified immediately from the date the recipient is served by process based upon your new income. The recipient will then no longer have an incentive to delay the proceedings, and your support is reset based upon your new income immediately.
However, also keep in mind, that this cannot happen simply between an informal agreement between you and the recipient of child support (see my article on this common mistake Informal modifications of child support are in almost every case worthless and in the end will only get you into trouble. An informal agreement will not work to protect you from a future action for back child support no matter what the agreement between the two of you stated. A year or two from now she (or he) will come back at you for back support that you did not pay because of an informal agreement you reached with the other person. Don’t let that happen.
In sum, under the new law, if you are laid off, lose your job, or your income is materially reduced, you now have a legal incentive to file ASAP for a child support modification. The sooner you get it filed and the sooner the recipient is served, the sooner your support obligation can be legally reduced consistent with your now lower income. Plus said reduction can now be made retroactive to the date that the recipient is served.
Contact us or call today to learn how Shaw Law can work with you to achieve the best outcome possible for you and your children.
Scott Shaw is founder and principle of Shaw Law Firm LLC, founded in 1995 and dedicated solely to divorce, family law and child custody matters that must be addressed and decided in the state of Georgia. Shaw Law Firm serves the greater Metro Atlanta area, particularly the counties of Fulton, Gwinnett, Cobb, Cherokee, Forsyth, Paulding, Henry, Fayette, Coweta, Newton, Walton, Bartow and Douglas. Schedule a consultation today at 770-594-8309.