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How child support is established

Some Georgia parents may have questions about how child support works, especially if they are new to the system. While most noncustodial parents understand they have a responsibility to provide financial support to their children, they may be unsure how support amounts are set or other key determinations are made. Child Support Awareness Month is marked annually in August with the goal of increased public information about how the child support system functions.

In order to put a child support order in place, it is necessary to determine parentage. While maternity can be established by showing that the mother gave birth to the child, paternity can be shown in several different ways. The husband of a married woman who gives birth during the marriage is presumed to be the father. In addition, an unmarried father can sign an affidavit of paternity at the birth or any time thereafter. In some cases, paternity is challenged or in doubt. In these cases, the parents can seek a DNA test in order to prove or disprove paternity. Once the father has been confirmed, an order of paternity can be issued.

After the child's parents have been determined, an amount for monthly child support payments can be set by the court. State guidelines take several objective factors into account, especially the noncustodial parent's income. Failure to comply with a child support obligation can lead to wage garnishment.

Sometimes, a child support order may be issued at a high point in a noncustodial parent's finances, and they may face later problems like unemployment or acquired disability. In such a case, the parent can work with a family law attorney to seek a child support modification. By obtaining a modified support order, a noncustodial parent can fulfill their obligations despite financial changes.

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