One of the most common questions potential clients have regarding child support is whether the amount will decrease once their oldest child becomes 18 or graduates from high school. It is a common misconception that child support in Georgia is calculated based upon a set amount per child with each child receiving an equal share. Accordingly, divorced parents with multiple children may mistakenly believe that since the child support amount was $1,000.00 per month when, for example, their two children where under age 18, that the child support amount automatically decreases to $500.00 when the oldest child either turns 18 or graduates from high school.
Although there may be limited exceptions as discussed below, currently, in Georgia, child support is not automatically reduced when one child either turns 18 or graduates high school. In most cases, parents seeking to decrease their child support obligation due to a change in circumstances will have to petition the court to modify their child support amount. In the subsequent modification action, both parents’ financial circumstances will be taken into consideration, as was the case with the original calculation of child support. This means that one child’s ineligibility for child support does not in and of itself mean that the child support amount will be reduced upon the filing of a petition for modification. It is possible that the child support amount may remain the same, or even be modified upward, despite the number of eligible children having been reduced since the child support calculation is based on the current financial circumstances of both parents.
It should be noted that the Georgia Legislature did amend the Georgia Child Support Guidelines in 2017 for cases involving multiple children to require automatic reductions for each time a child aged out of receiving child support. This meant that, under the 2017 Child Support Guidelines, since child support calculations included automatic reductions in cases of multiple children, that those paying child support no longer had to petition the court for a reduction in child support when the duty to pay support for one of their children ceased. Since this change in the law shifted the burden to those who receive child support to seek future child support modifications as opposed to those who have a duty to pay support, the Georgia Legislature re-evaluated this change in the law in 2018 and again amended the Georgia Child Support Guidelines regarding this issue. In 2018, the Georgia Legislature amended the guidelines to make automatically reduced child support orders discretionary by courts instead of mandatory. This means that a judge can decide whether to accept a request for automatic reductions in child support in cases of multiple children. Further, the Legislature amended the law to make automatic reductions in child support in cases involving multiple children only applicable when it is likely that one of the children will become ineligible for child support within two years from the date of the final order.
In summary, due to the Georgia Legislature’s 2018 amendment to the Child Support Guidelines regarding automatic reductions in cases involving multiple children, it is highly likely that the parent who has the duty to pay child support will have to petition the court to modify child support and demonstrate a change in the financial circumstances of either one or both parents to have the child support amount reduced. As the calculation of child support in Georgia is a very complex process involving numerous factors, it is advisable that one seek experienced legal counsel for advice on this topic. For questions involving child support, contact the experienced family law attorneys at The
Faucette Law Firm today at (770) 485-6620.