2018 brings some significant changes to the Georgia child support laws. In particular SB 427 makes the following changes
When there is an expectation that a child will not be subject to support within a certain amount of time, there is sometimes a desire to go ahead and deal with that issue so that the parties do not have to incur additional costs for a modification.
The new law will make provision for that possibility a matter of statute. It will apply when there is a likelihood that a child will cease to be eligible for support within two years. In that case, separate worksheets will be prepared to reflect the expected change. The child support order can provide for the decrease in support upon the occurrence of the child becoming ineligible for support. Making such a provision will not be a bar to a party seeking an actual modification upon that event.
Considerations in Setting Support
Under the existing law, there is not always a lot of consideration for how support will affect the parent paying support. This can be problematic, especially where the means of the parent are very limited. The new law directs that the court will consider the basic subsistence needs of the parents and the child.
As well, the best interests of the child will no longer be the primary consideration. It is just a consideration. The court consider a noncustodial parent's ability or inability to pay the presumptive amount of child support.
Major Changes to Imputed Income Provisions
Where there is not reliable evidence of income for a parent, the existing law directs the court to impute gross income for a parent based on a 40 hour workweek at minimum wage. The new law allows the fact-finder to considere the specific circumstances of a parent in setting an imputed income amount. Factors to be considered include the parent's assets, residence, employment and earnings history, job skills, educational attainment, literacy, age, health, criminal record and other employment barriers and record of seeking work, as well as the local job market, availability of employers willing to hire the parent, prevailing earnings level in the local community and any other relevant background factor.
A major issue was setting or modifying child support for incarcerated parents. Many courts considered incarceration to be a voluntary situation not deserving of relief from child support. The new law directs that the court will not consider the pre-incarceration wages and will instead consider what the actual income of the parent is while incarcerated and the assets available to that parent.
In addition, incarceration is added as basis to allow a retroactive reduction of support. This is not retroactive to the date of incarceration but to the date that the petition for modification is filed. Still, it is a significant benefit to the person seeking modification and a disincentive to the other party to just delay for the purposes of delaying the effective date of modification.
At NMS Law Firm, we stay up to date on child support issues to be ready to assist you with your issues. Call Nina Svoren at 706-282-4696 for family law and divorce issues in Northeast Georgia.