Modification of Child Support Orders FAQ in a Georgia Divorce
Know your options if you want to change a child support order in a Georgia Divorce.
In a unanimous decision authored by Justice George H. Carley, the Georgia Supreme Court has affirmed a Habersham County Superior Court judge's ruling in Department of Human Resources v. Allison et al., S02A1446.
On behalf of the non-custodial father, the Department of Human Resources ("DHR") sought a downward modification of his child support obligation. The Supreme Court found, however, that in order for DHR to seek such a modification, it must have "previously participated and obtained an order enforcing child support," which it had not done in this case. Without a showing of such prior involvement, there is "a total absence of any statutory or case law in this state to permit DHR's initial participation in a case to be for the purpose of a downward modification action on behalf of a non-custodial parent."
- I think our existing child support order is unfair. How can I change it?
- What is a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) Clause?
You and your child's other parent may agree to modify the child support terms, but even an agreed-upon modification for child support must be approved by a judge to be legally enforceable.
If you and your ex can't agree on a change, you must request the court to hold a hearing in which each of you can argue the pros and cons of the proposed modification. As a general rule, the court will not modify an existing order unless the parent proposing the modification can show changed circumstances. This rule encourages stability of arrangements and helps prevent the court from becoming overburdened with frequent and repetitive modification requests.
Depending on the circumstances, a modification may be temporary or permanent. Examples of the types of changes that frequently support temporary modification orders are:
- a child's medical emergency
- the payer's temporary inability to pay (for instance, because of illness or an additional financial burden such as a medical emergency or job loss), or
- temporary economic or medical hardship on the part of the recipient parent.
A permanent modification may be awarded under one of the following circumstances:
- either parent receives additional income from remarriage
- changes in the child support laws
- job change of either parent
- cost of living increase
- disability of either parent, or
- needs of the child.
A permanent modification of a child support order will remain in effect until support is no longer required or the order is modified at a later time -- again, because of changed circumstances.
A COLA clause in a child support order means that payments are to increase annually at a rate equal to the annual cost of living increase, as determined by an economic indicator (such as the Consumer Price Index). Some judges include COLAs in their orders when setting child support. This eliminates the need for any modification requests based solely on cost of living increases.