Your Hometown Lawyers
Photo of Michelle R. Harrison and Chadwick D. Medlin

Child Support Orders in Georgia

According to the Children’s Defense Fund, as of 2011, 16.4 million American children live in poverty. That number represents an increase of 950,000 between 2009 and 2010 alone. In Georgia, as in the rest of the nation, the struggle is intensifying, and lack of financial support from children’s non-custodial parents can certainly be a factor.

Georgia has a public policy that parents are required to adequately support their children to age 18, or until children are married or emancipated. A child’s right to support is absolute; a parent cannot opt-out of that right on behalf of the child.

Under Georgia law, a child’s custodial parent or other primary caretaker is entitled to apply for child support from a non-custodial parent, regardless of whether the child’s parents were married. To begin the application process, the child’s caretaker can start with the state’s Division of Child Support Services. The DCSS will verify the non-custodial parent’s identity and location, settle paternity issues and file a petition with the court for a support order. An enforcement agent can be called in if it is necessary to enforce the order and keep payments coming in on schedule.

Sometimes a caretaker will need to start a criminal non-support case, also called an abandonment warrant. After a hearing, a parent who does not provide a child without adequate shelter, food or clothing can be found guilty of a misdemeanor, fined $1,000 or sent to jail for up to a year. The accused parent may be able to avoid a criminal penalty by choosing to pay child support at the hearing. It is also possible to dispute paternity.

However extreme a child support nonpayment situation may be, it is important to remember that the child’s needs are paramount. Georgia parents and caretakers who need help settling child support issues should seek competent legal help to be sure children receive the financial support they are entitled to.