What happens if child support is not paid in Georgia?
Once the child support order is established, what guarantee is there that the non-custodial parent will pay the amount ordered by the court?
The answer is, of course, that as with most things in life, there are no guarantees. But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t mechanisms in place to legally make it more likely that children receive the support they deserve from both their parents. First is the concept of an “Income Deduction Order” (IDO). This is an order signed by a judge that requires that an employer withhold the ordered amount of child support from a non-custodial parent’s pay and send it directly to the State of Georgia for processing and distribution to the custodial parent for the benefit of the children. Since the mid-1990’s all Georgia child support orders must have this unless there is a written agreement otherwise. If a child support order does not include an IDO, the custodial parent may be able to go to court and have one added.
While IDOs are an important enforcement provision, there are others. The state and federal government can withhold tax refunds for those who are behind in their child support payments (called being “in arrears.”) Also, the state may suspend a non-custodial parent’s driver’s license as an incentive for him or her to get current on payments. If the person owns property liens may be placed upon it, or writs of garnishment may be issued against bank accounts. Finally, a non-paying parent may be ordered to appear in court to answer to show cause why he or she should not be held in contempt of the court’s original support order.
Of course, most of the above measure do not happen automatically, and there may well be procedural and substantive legal hurdles that must be overcome to achieve a result. If you wish to enforce an existing child support order, you may wish to consider contacting a Georgia family law attorney.
Can a court jail one for failure to pay child support in Georgia?
Some of the enforcement measures for child support involve various ways of making it more likely the money that is supposed to be paid is paid in the first place, as with Income Deduction Orders that have the funds taken directly out of an obligor’s paycheck, or the interception of a tax refund to reduce any amount owed in arrears.
Some methods of enforcement are coercive in nature, however, such as threatening to suspend a non-custodial parent’s driver’s license for failure to pay. Another of these coercive methods is the use of a court’s civil contempt power. Georgia Code 19-6-28 specifically grants family courts the power to use this method as a part of the already established family law case. It even provides for an easier way to serve a motion for contempt than might otherwise be the case.
The statute allows a respondent to be served with a contempt motion by regular mail sent to his or her last known address. Basically once notified in this manner, the person who is ordered to pay will need to appear in court to show the reason why he or she has not been complying with the court’s order. Usually, the court will hear evidence on the person’s ability to pay, and if it is found that the failure to pay was willful, an amount of money will be set for the respondent to pay to ‘purge’ the contempt. It is even possible that the court will order the person to jail until the amount is paid.
Note that in a civil contempt case, the person in contempt must ‘have the keys’ to the jail cell. That is, upon meeting the court’s requirements, the person must be released. While it is possible to file a civil contempt action oneself, due to various notice requirements and constitutional issues, it may be wise for you to consider contacting an experienced family lawyer to help enforce child support orders.
Is consent needed to change a child’s name?
Holding a non-custodial parent in contempt of court is not the only way to penalize someone who is willfully withholding court-ordered child support payments. A person might have the person’s driver’s or professional licenses suspended or have tax returns intercepted to pay any arrears that exist. Georgia residents will find that there are also some other rights that could be put at risk for failing to maintain an ordered child support payment schedule.
While it should be incentive enough for most parents that the child needs to be supported by both the child’s parents, sometimes these other methods are necessary. One way the state of Georgia implements its public policy on maintenance of children through the assets of their parents is to take away some rights they might otherwise have vis-à-vis those kids.
For example, Georgia Code 19-12-1 deals with petitions to change the names of minor children. Normally, if a parent or guardian wishes to change a child’s name, the petition will need to be accompanied by written consent of both the parents. However, as a caveat to this rule, the statute provides that written consent of a parent is not required if the person has failed to contribute to the support of the child for five or more contiguous years before the petition is filed.
Many parents take their responsibilities to their children very seriously. Unfortunately, there are times when divorces and other differences between custodial parents and non-custodial parents escalate and children become pawns in a power struggle between adults. Georgia law does its best to incentivize parents to meet their court-ordered obligations when it comes to child support.
When can Georgia intercept a tax refund for child support?
Previous posts here have discussed various ways in which child support orders can be enforced against non-custodial parents who have fallen behind on their payments. We’ve touched on the use of civil contempt proceedings to collect arrearages, the fact that the state may suspend driver’s licenses or professional licenses, as well as the use of Income Withholding Orders to help prevent arrearages from occurring in the first place. One other tool in Georgia is an offset of the obligor’s tax refund against a child support arrearage.
The first thing to notice about such offsets is that the Georgia Department of Revenue does not have the power to affect federal tax refunds itself. In fact, the DOR will certify a child support arrearage to the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement, which will then authorize the offset. Generally speaking, there are two types of cases in which a non-custodial parent’s tax return may be intercepted. The first is if the custodian of the children has received public assistance, usually in the form of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Second, tax refunds may be offset in cases where a custodian has requested child support enforcement services from the state.
To qualify for a tax refund offset, the non-custodial parent in a case must owe an arrearage of at least $500. In cases in which TANF is involved, the amount owed to the state must be at least $150. The DOR must have verified the obligor’s name and Social Security number, and the amount of the arrearage cannot be under legitimate dispute. Currently, the amount of the arrearage can be proven by either a DOR payment history or an affidavit by the child’s custodian, but a proposed rule change will eliminate the latter form of proof, requiring DOR to have some other type of evidence in order to institute an offset.
Georgia has an interest in ensuring that children are supported financially by both of their parents. As we have seen, there are several avenues a custodial parent may use to attempt to collect child support. It should be noted that non-custodial parents may have the right to object to arrearages and tax offsets depending on the circumstances.