What Changes of Circumstances Justify Modification of Child Support?
Judges in the Georgia courts determine child support obligations according to state guidelines that take into account the child’s needs and each parent’s economic circumstances. However, those needs and circumstances are likely to change over time. If the changes are substantial enough, a modification of the original child support order may be possible.
Generally, a Georgia family court will modify an existing child support order based on a demonstration of material factors such as these:
- The paying parent experiences a significant loss of income — A falloff in income could occur because of a change in employment, a serious illness or an injury from an accident. However, a change in employment must be involuntary, not a conscious decision to stop working or to take a lower-paying job.
- The paying parent has a significant increase in income or assets — Just as a reduction in income can justify a downward modification, a court may consider an upturn in the payer’s financial status in deciding if a higher support payment is warranted.
- The income or financial status of the receiving parent has significantly improved — The parent with primary child custody may see an increase in income due to remarriage or a financial windfall, such as winning the lottery or receiving an inheritance.
- The cost of living has increased — This can result from either parent being hit with higher rent or encountering unforeseen expenses, justifying an upward or downward modification.
- The needs of the child have increased — A child may require medical attention or therapy that is not covered by insurance or other resources. In addition, educational or extracurricular expenses can increase during the child’s teenage years.
- Either parent has suffered a physical disability — This can add to the needs of a parent receiving child support payments or reduce the ability of a parent to pay them.
- There has been a change in custody arrangements — If the parenting plan is altered so that the child spends more time with the paying parent, the other parent has less need for child support.
A court will consider not only the type of change in circumstances but also whether the amount of money in question is enough to have a substantial impact on the ability to make the child support payments under the existing order.
It is important to note that modifications of child support orders are not retroactive. If granted, the modification will become effective as of the date the requesting party filed the motion.
Whether you are the parent paying or receiving child support, you should immediately consult an attorney if you foresee that changes in your financial situation or that of the child’s other parent may warrant a modification.
The Law Office of S. Mark Mitchell, LLC handles a wide range of family matters. If you or your child’s other parent are considering a modification of a child support order, call 470-344-8550 or contact the firm online to discuss your situation.