In Georgia, parents are generally obligated to support their children financially, even if they do not have custody. The state uses standard Child Support Guidelines to determine how much a parent must pay to the custodial parent. 

Child support payments continue until the order is vacated or modified. The support payments can also end if the defined requirements in the order are met or if specific events occur, as explained in state laws.

If you have questions about child support payments, a Lawrenceville child support lawyer can review your case to explain your rights and obligations. 

When Does Child Support End in Georgia?

The Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA) §19-6-15 explains when a person’s child support obligations end. According to the statute, child support payments continue until a child reaches the age of majority, which is typically 18 years old. 

However, orders entered on or after July 1, 1992, can extend child support payments until the child finishes “secondary school” or reaches the age of 20 years, whichever comes first. Secondary school refers to high school. The child must not be emancipated and must be enrolled in high school for the support payments to continue.

Other reasons for terminating child support payments include:

  • The child gets married
  • The death of the child
  • The parent obligated to pay the child support payments dies
  • The legal custodian of the minor child dies
  • The parent paying child support obtains legal custody of the child
  • The child is emancipated 

The child support order or divorce decree could specify another date or event that terminates child support payments. Also, the parents could agree to extend child support payments through college or another date. 

It is also important to note that child support and child custody are two separate matters. For example, a parent might have to pay child support even without custody.

Likewise, the parent cannot stop paying child support payments if the other parent refuses to honor a visitation order. The parent must file a petition with the court to hold the custodial parent in contempt for failing to follow a visitation order or parenting plan. 

What Happens if a Parent Stops Paying Child Support Payments in Georgia?

Georgia has several ways of enforcing child support obligations. If a parent stops paying child support payments, the state can impose fines and jail time for child support arrears. In addition, the state can collect child support payments by:

  • Garnishing the parent’s wages
  • Withholding support payments from workers’ compensation benefits or unemployment benefits
  • Seizing federal and/or state income tax refunds
  • Intercepting lottery winnings that exceed $2,500
  • Filing a lien to seize funds from bank accounts, property, or workers’ compensation settlements

The state can also suspend or revoke a parent’s driver’s license, professional license, and recreational fishing or hunting license for non-payment of child support. In addition, the state could report child support delinquency to all three credit reporting agencies. Also, non-payment of child support could result in suspension, denial, or revocation of a passport when the past-due payments total more than $2,500.

What Should I Do if I Cannot Afford My Child Support Payments?

Talk with a Lawrenceville child support attorney immediately if you cannot afford your child support payments. You can face jail time and other consequences if you stop paying child support. 

Instead, an attorney can help you file a petition for child support modification. You have the burden of proving a substantial change in circumstances justifies modifying your child support payments.

Examples of circumstances that could support a child support modification include, but are not limited to:

  • You involuntarily lose your job and are unable to find one within a reasonable period
  • A parent begins earning substantially more money
  • You become disabled because of an accident, injury, or illness
  • A child has extraordinary medical or educational needs not anticipated in the original child support order
  • You are forced to take a job earning less money
  • The number of children in the family increases or decreases 
  • You change the custody arrangement so that you have your child for more overnight visits

Typically, you can only petition for a child support modification once every two years. There are limited exceptions, including an involuntary loss of income. 

The court can only modify child support payments from the date you file your petition. Therefore, if you believe your child support payments are too high, it is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible. An experienced family law attorney can review your case to determine if and when you should file a petition to reduce child support obligations. 

Contact the Divorce Lawyers at Crystal Wright Law To Get Legal Assistance Today

To learn more and get the help you deserve, call our divorce & family law firm at (404) 594-2143 or reach out to Crystal Wright Law online by visiting our contact us page.
You can also visit our law firm at 440 S. Perry Street Suite 105, Lawrenceville, GA 30046.