Kids' rights are not always the first things that come to mind in a divorce situation, but states do consider them and some enforce them more than others. Georgia is relatively progressive when it comes to children, respecting both their feelings and right to financial support.
Georgia is one of two states that staunchly defends a teenager's right to decide where to live when his parents divorce. Historically, children 14 years old or older had an "absolute right" in Georgia to select their custodial parent. The legislature has tweaked the statute a little, but the law still protects teenagers' wishes to a significant extent. The parent not selected can now petition the court to override the child's preference, but absent issues of abuse, this rarely happens.
Time With Both Parents
Georgia's statutes also uphold a child's right to have healthy and frequent contact with both parents. Section 19-9-3(d) of the state's code "encourages" parents to work together to iron out their differences and ensure their child spends ample time with both parents. A custodial parent cannot legally deny parenting time or visitation if the non-custodial parent is behind in child support payments.
A child has a right to financial support from both parents and all states have child support guidelines built into their laws to accomplish this. Guidelines are methods by which states calculate non-custodial parents' support obligations. Georgia upgraded its child support guidelines in 2006 to take both parents' incomes into consideration. Before 2006, the guidelines were based on a percentage of the non-custodial parent's income according to how many children he had to support. Just as a custodial parent can't withhold visitation in an effort to collect child support, a non-custodial parent can't stop paying it because he's not being granted time with his child. Georgia law allows for aggressive collection efforts when a parent falls behind in support, including wage withholding and interception of tax refunds.
Georgia's child support guidelines include provisions for health insurance because children have a right to the best medical care their parents can afford. If parents divorce, both are obligated to contribute to medical insurance the same way they're obligated to contribute to their child's other financial needs. The cost of the premiums is divided between parents according to the same calculations used to calculate child support.
References & Resources
- Georgia Divorce and Family Law Blog: Children's Bill of Rights
- Cordell/Cordell: Frequently Asked Child Custody Questions - Georgia
- Stephen A. Land: Child Support Means More Than Money
- Georgia Family Matters: How Do I Enforce My Child Support Order?
- American Bar Association: Chapter 12 -- Custody and Visitation (PDF)
- Sharon Jackson: Child Support and Health Insurance for Children in Georgia