Under Georgia law, child support can be modified upon any material change of circumstances in the parent’s income or financial status or the needs of the child. That’s a lot of language for an attorney to work with. In short, it means if the other parent’s income goes up or down, there are grounds to modify child support. What are the next steps if you believe it’s time to modify support? Let’s take a closer look.
Income Fluctuations or Needs of the Child
If your income goes up or down, that’s a good time to modify child support. But how much does your income need to change? Honestly, just one dollar is enough but from a practical, legal standpoint you should have enough of an income fluctuation to change the amount of child support by 15%. So, if your child support was $500 per month, a 15% change would be $75 a month up or down.
The same 15% is used to determine if the needs of the child have changed. What are these qualifying needs? It could be extracurricular activities, health issues, special education needs, private school, or more.
When Can I File a Modification of Child Support?
Any time you have a material change of circumstances, as described above, you can file for a modification of child support. However, you can only modify every 2 years from any prior modification petition. What does that mean?
If you have a divorce decree less than 2 years ago or a paternity or legitimation child support order less than 2 years ago, they don’t count against your 2 years. The only way these 2 years come into play is if a petition to modify has been filed at any point after the initial child support orders.
There is one exception. Even with the 2-year rule, you can still file to modify more than once every 2 years upon the following circumstances:
- The noncustodial parent has failed to exercise the court-ordered visitation.
- The noncustodial parent has exercised a greater amount of visitation than the court order.
- The motion to modify child support is based upon an involuntary loss of income meaning you were fired, laid off, or injured so you cannot work.
If any of these circumstances are the case, file immediately. Filing to modify on this basis is only retroactive back to the date the other party is served.
If you file a petition to modify child support, the prevailing party may be entitled to an award of attorney’s fees from the other party. This can sometimes encourage the other side to settle. In practice, I have noticed this not to be so much despite what the drafters of the new statute may have thought. Child support modifications remain quite contested and often require a fight.
An Important Note about Income
It’s important to know that the income of a parent’s spouse is not included in the calculation for child support. But if a parent’s spouse makes enough money so the parent does not need to work full time or to their full ability, that can be used to impute income to the parent for the purposes of child support.
In addition, if the spouse’s income is such that the parent has fewer expenses, such as not having to pay for rent, a car, or other bills, that can also be imputed to the parent for child support purposes. It’s only the spouse’s income itself that won’t be considered.
Call Shaw Law
No matter what circumstances have led you to consider modifying child support, your next step is to contact an attorney specializing in family law.
We are Georgia divorce and child custody attorneys. This is all we have done since 1995. We can help. If you need help or have any questions, we would be happy to speak with you via email, text, or phone. Check us out at www.shawlaw.com