When your divorce is finalized, no one know what the future holds for you, your former spouse or your children. Arrangements that may seem fair and equitable at the time a divorce decree or child support order is entered may no longer seem that way years down the road.
Changes in finances, employment, health, or other circumstances may lead one party or the other to request a modification of the child support order that was entered at the conclusion of your divorce. Georgia law does allow for such requests, however, there are very specific requirements that must be met in order for a judge to approve a modification of previously approved child support arrangements.
While Georgia law provides for specific formulas to be used to determine the amount of child support to be awarded, generally speaking child support is calculated based on the best interests of the children and the parties’ present gross incomes at the time the award is set.
Either party may petition the court to modify a support order, but not every change in circumstances will justify an adjustment of child support amounts. Under Georgia law, “a parent shall not have the right to petition for modification of the child support award regardless of the length of time since the establishment of the child support award unless there is a substantial change in either parent’s income and financial status or the needs of the child.” O.C.G.A. § 19-6-15. What constitutes a “substantial” change is evaluated on a case by case basis, but common examples include:
- Loss of a job
- Decrease in income
- Increase in income
- Increase in the medical needs of the children,
- Increase in the educational needs of the children (i.e. private school, tutoring, etc.)
- Decrease in the custodial needs of the children (i.e. child no longer needs day care)
As the examples above indicate, requests for modification can seek a decrease in support amounts as well as an increase. Additionally, the “substantial change” must have occurred subsequent to the entry of the last child support order or last modification.
Limitations on Modification Petitions
Before deciding to petition the court for a modification of support arrangements, it is important to note that, with a few exceptions, you can only seek a modification once every two years after that last order or adjustment was entered. The exceptions are for when the non-custodial parent has failed to exercise court ordered visitation, the non-custodial parent has exercised more visitation than provided in the court order, or the modification action is based upon an involuntary loss of income.
If you believe there has in fact been a substantial change in circumstances that warrants a modification of child support obligations, you should consult with an experienced Georgia family law attorney as soon thereafter as possible to discuss your situation. Given that modifications only date back to the date the petition is filed and not the date of the change itself, delay can potentially cost you a significant amount.
Alan Welch: Assistance and Guidance With Child Support Modification
As a compassionate and experienced Georgia divorce attorney, I can help you navigate the tricky waters of child support modification and work with you to ensure that your rights, as well as the rights of your children, are protected in any proceedings. Contact me today at (912) 265-9811 for a free, initial consultation to discuss your case.
This article has been prepared by J. Alan Welch Law for informational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. The information is not provided in the course of an attorney-client relationship and is not intended to substitute for legal advice from an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.