Child Support Enforcement

Table of Contents

What is Child Support Enforcement

Child Support Enforcement (CSE) is a program that ensures financial support for children. The federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) plays a critical role in this program. It helps state and tribal child support programs adhere to federal law, provides technical assistance and training, and assists in locating parents, establishing parentage, setting child support orders, and collecting payments. 

Factors Affecting Child Support Calculations

Calculating child support involves a variety of factors and formulas that vary across different jurisdictions. Here’s a detailed breakdown of how child support is typically calculated:

  • Number of Children: The number of children being supported is a primary factor.
  • Parental Income: Both parents’ gross monthly incomes are considered.
  • Childcare Expenses: Costs associated with childcare, including health insurance, are factored in.
  • Special Needs: Additional accommodations for children with special medical, psychological, or educational needs may be included.
  • Standard of Living & Parental Needs: The child’s standard of living before separation or divorce, and the financial needs of the custodial parent, are considered.
  • Parenting Time: The amount of time each parent spends with the child can influence the calculation.

Child Support Calculation Models

There are three main models used across various states for calculating child support:

  • Income Shares Model: This is the most common model. It combines both parents’ incomes to determine the total available for child support. Each parent contributes a proportion of this total based on their income.
  • Percentage of Income Model: This model requires the noncustodial parent to pay child support as a specific portion of their income. There are two versions: flat (same percentage regardless of income level) and varying (adjusted according to the parent’s income bracket).
  • Melson Formula: A more complex version of the Income Shares Model, it ensures that the basic needs of both parents are met, in addition to the child’s needs. This model allows for additional deductions like income taxes and other expenses impacting a parent’s ability to pay.

What are the Legal Procedures Involved in Child Support Enforcement?

In Georgia, the legal procedures involved in Child Support Enforcement are carried out by the Division of Child Support Services (DCSS) and include several key steps:

  • Opening a Child Support Case: Either parent can initiate a case by contacting DCSS. An application form needs to be completed and a fee of $25 is charged. Assistance from DCSS is automatically available to those receiving Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) or certain Medicaid benefits.
  • Locating the Noncustodial Parent (NCP): For establishing or enforcing a support order, DCSS must know the whereabouts of the NCP. This process can take time, especially if the NCP’s location is unknown or out of state.
  • Establishing Paternity: Paternity must be established before a court can order child support and medical support. If paternity is disputed, DCSS may order a paternity test.
  • Filing a Support Order: A child support order is established based on Georgia Child Support Guidelines. It considers both parents’ incomes and the number of children, along with other factors like medical insurance availability at a reasonable cost.
  • Setting up Payment: Once a child support order is in place, the support amount is typically deducted from the NCP’s paycheck. State law mandates immediate income withholding in most cases.
  • Enforcing the Support Order: If the NCP fails to pay the full amount or at all, enforcement actions are necessary. These might include withholding child support from paychecks or benefits, intercepting tax refunds, reporting to credit bureaus, suspending licenses, and court actions like filing contempt actions which may lead to fines or jail time.

Additionally, DCSS has various tools for enforcing child support orders, including wage garnishment, property liens, and contempt of court actions. Non-custodial parents facing difficulties in making payments can seek to modify their support order by explaining their situation to a judge. The “Fatherhood Program” in Georgia can also assist non-custodial parents who owe child support but lack the ability to pay​.

How Family Matters Law Group Can Assist You with Child Support Enforcement

A lawyer like Family Matters Law can be instrumental in child support enforcement by providing expert legal guidance and representation. We can help navigate complex legal processes, ensure accurate child support calculations based on income and custody arrangements, and represent clients in court for enforcement actions. Lawyers also assist in filing for modifications of existing support orders due to changes in financial circumstances or other factors. 

Family Matters Law Group specializes in assisting with child support enforcement issues. We offer comprehensive services, ranging from initial support calculations in divorce proceedings to modifications of existing agreements. Our expertise extends to addressing complex cases, including those involving self-employed parents or children with special needs. Our approach ensures that child support payments are fair, reflecting both the children’s requirements and the parent’s financial capabilities, thereby providing effective legal support in child support enforcement matters.