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CHILD SUPPORT MODIFICATION
Georgia allows for a modification of child support every two years or based on a substantial change in circumstances. In Georgia child support is determined by each parent’s gross income and allowable deviations or contributions to be included in the calculation of child support. The child support is calculated on a worksheet in which it has been predetermined by the legislature what the base line amount of support should be considering the gross income of both parents and the number of children in the household. This number is then divided among the parties based on the percentage of income contributed. If one parent makes $2,000.00 per month and the other $8,000.00 per month the monthly allocation and division of insurance, extracurricular, daycare and all other expenses above and beyond the baseline amount will be divided according to the percentage of contribution. With the above amounts this would mean the individual making $2,000.00 per month would contribute 20% while the individual making $8,000.00 per month would contribute 80%. This is why it is essential to modify child support if there is a change in these numbers or circumstances.
If the circumstances that determined the amount of child support change the party affected should modify their child support obligation. The most common reason for a change is the loss of a job or substantial decrease in income. If you are under a court ordered child support obligation and lose your job, file for a modification immediately. Your obligation does not go away and the amount owed will accumulate if you cannot make the court ordered payments. In the case of involuntary unemployment Georgia allows for retroactive modification from the date of filing of the petition for modification. This will give the party under duress relief from the accumulation of amounts they will be unable to pay. If the dependent parties income substantially increases or issues involved in deviations, such as daycare expenses, are no longer relevant seek a child custody modification immediately. Many people neglect to change their child support obligation when facedwith substantial changes and find themselves in situations of contempt. Remember that you are entitled to modify your child support obligation and if circumstances have changed substantially do not think you have to live with the original agreement, change is possible with the help of counsel.
CHILD CUSTODY OR VISITATION MODIFICATION
Georgia also allows for modifications of child custody or visitation orders. When the court granted an initial custody or visitation order they made their determination on what they considered the best interest of the children based on statutory guidelines. However, the court can only make that determination on what is presented at a brief trial and often there are unforeseen changes that warrant a change. If a party wishes to file for a modification of custody there should be a substantial change of circumstance for the court to consider when being asked to change its original order. Usually this involves some behaviors by one parent involving drugs, alcohol or general neglect of the children that was not presented during the original custody proceedings. Many times it involves a change in lifestyle and living arrangements not conducive to the best interests of the children. Other times it involves a child who expresses a desire to live with the other parent. When you seek to change the custodial arrangement of the children and the other party is not going to consent the legal threshold is significant and there must be clear evidence that circumstances warrant this change. This is especially true if you seek to bring a third party custodial action. Georgia allows for a modification of custody action by relatives if it is determined that the parents are unfit to continue custody of the children. It is highly recommended that you seek the advice of counsel in a situation in which you believe your children need to be in the custodial care of the other parent or third party relative as these matters tend to be very complicated and will involve the presentation of significant evidence and the inclusion of third party experts and often the use of a guardian ad litem.
Georgia also permits for modification of visitation orders. The threshold of proof is not as demanding as that needed for a custody modification and the court will look at the best interest of the children. An action for a modification of visitation usually involves a relocation of one of the parents that makes visitation difficult or impossible; or a denial of visitation rights by the custodial parent.
The courts understand that circumstances change in any family and especially in those navigating a separation and divorce. The original order often times is not the best order.