Child Support & Alimony

CHILD SUPPORT

The rules concerning temporary child support are essentially the same as those governing awards of temporary alimony.  The party seeking the award must prove the existence of one or more dependent, minor children with a legal support claim against the other spouse.  Usually, the party who does not have custody of the child/children is the party obligated to pay child support.  The party who does not have custody of the children is called a “noncustodial parent.” Parties can agree on an amount that the noncustodial parent pays, even agreeing that no child support is paid. Child support in the State of Georgia is determined by guidelines set forth in the Georgia Family Code.

Effective January 1, 2007, the guidelines for calculating child support in Georgia are based on a new “income shares” model which takes into account the income of both the custodial parent and the noncustodial parent.  These guidelines must be used when the court enters a temporary or permanent child support order in a contested or uncontested hearing.

This presumptive amount of child support may be increased or decreased according to:

  1. the best interest of the child for whom support is being considered,
  2. the circumstances of the parties,
  3. the grounds for deviation, and
  4. to achieve the state policy of affording to children of unmarried parents, to the extent possible, the same economic standard of living enjoyed by children living in intact families consisting of parents with similar financial means.

CHILD SUPPORT QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

To bring a petition for modification of a child support award, regardless of the length of time since the award was established, there must be a substantial change in either parents’ income and financial status or the needs of the child.  The petition for modification cannot be filed by either parent within a period of two years from the date of the final order on a previous petition to modify by the same parent, with the following exceptions:

  1. A noncustodial parent has failed to exercise the court-ordered visitation;
  2. a noncustodial parent has exercised a greater amount of                visitation than was provided in the court order; or
  3. the motion to modify is based upon an involuntary loss of income.

Not generally. However, this depends on the circumstances.  Usually, states do not give parents the automatic right to “abandon” children in an effort to avoid a legal responsibility to support them.

Probably not. This will depend on whether you and your ex have reached an agreement regarding payment arrange-ments. For example, some written agreements specifically address when support payments will be made.  The general rule is that child support does not automatically stop when the child is away from the primary custodial parent because the parent receiving child support must continue to pay the mortgage, taxes, insurance and maintenance of the family home even in the temporary absence of the child.

Such expenses will be regarded as “extra” activities.  Depending on the facts and circumstances of each case, a court might view these as an educational expense and apportion the costs between the parents.

Some considerations are:

  • Is there enough money for such studies?
  • Is one parent more insistent about the studies than the other?
  • What was the established pattern in this family?

NOTE:

  1. If you have been required to pay child support, be responsible about paying it. 
  2. Late or missed payments really do affect the kids. 
  3. Don’t discuss child support or other financial issues with your children.

ALIMONY

The term “alimony” refers to support paid by one spouse or former spouse to the other.  The purpose is to meet the support needs of a party who is unable to fully provide for his or her own support. Not surprisingly, the right to claim alimony is extinguished by remarriage.

The courts will look at the skills, education and work history of both people in the marriage. If both have comparable skills and education which results in high-paying jobs, the courts will most likely not order spousal support. Alternatively, if there is a lack of skills, education and work history for one of the people in the relationship, the person will generally be paid until he or she has received the skills and education to acquire a job.

TEMPORARY ALIMONY

Temporary alimony is an allowance awarded to either party after the complaint for divorce is filed and is intended both for support and to enable the recipient to contest the issues in the pending proceeding. As a result, the order of the court fixing temporary alimony may be modified at any time before final judgment. The award may include attorney’s fees, expenses of litigation and child support. Temporary alimony cannot be awarded absent a valid, existing marriage.  A party may not receive alimony where the separation was caused by that party’s adultery or desertion.

Entitlement to temporary alimony and the amount of the award are questions addressed to the sound discretion of the trial judge.  The court may inquire into the cause and circumstances of the separation although the merits of the cause are not in issue.  In arriving at the proper provision, the judge shall consider the peculiar necessities created for each party by the pending litigation.

PERMANENT ALIMONY

Permanent alimony is the allowance awarded either party upon the final disposition of the case.  The following factors are considered in the determining the amount of alimony, if any, to be awarded:

  1. The standard of living established during the marriage.
  2. The duration of the marriage.
  3. The age and the physical and emotional condition of both parties.
  4. The financial resources of each party.
  5. Where applicable, the time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to enable him or her to find appropriate employment.
  6. The contribution of each party to the marriage, including, but not limited, to services rendered in homemaking, child care, education, and career building of the other party.
  7. The condition of the parties, including the separate estate, earning capacity and fixed liabilities of the parties.
  8. Such other relevant factors as the court deems equitable and proper.

Note:

  • The amount of alimony is not fixed with formulaic precision; rather, it is adjusted to the circumstances of each case within the broad discretion of the judge.
  • The award of alimony may be in cash or in any type of tangible or intangible property.
  • The court may order property sold and allocate the proceeds between the parties.

ALIMONY QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

Usually not.  Sometimes courts may reduce alimony if circumstances have changed.  Typically, however, changes in circumstance that are the unilateral and voluntary decision of the payor (such as remarrying and having additional children) will not result in a reduction in support to the former spouse.  Unforeseen or unavoidable significant changes in circumstance usually are required for modification.  But what happens if the payee remarries?  Well, that depends…  Generally, if the payee remarries and the payor was ordered to pay alimony for as long as the other party lived or remarried, then payment will cease.  However, if the alimony was structured in such a way that every month the ex-spouse was to receive a set dollar amount for a set period of time,  alimony may continue even after the spouse remarries.

Under the right set of circumstances, spousal support can be modified, although the criteria for modification generally are, very specific and differs from state to state.  A different standard for modification may apply if spousal support was determined and ordered by a court rather than agreed to by the parties.

Bergstrom & Associates has been successful in handling many child support and alimony cases for our clients. Contact us today at 678-648-1794 and we will be happy to assist you with any legal issues you may have in these areas.