When Does Child Support Start in a Divorce in Georgia?

By Heather Frances J.D.

Parents are responsible for supporting their children financially before and after divorce, but many parents do not have an order requiring them to pay child support until they go to court for their divorce. Courts can order a parent to pay child support before the divorce is final, though support orders can be modified later when circumstances change.

Pre-Divorce Orders

Parents do not have to actually get divorced for the custodial parent to request a child support order, and the noncustodial parent must pay child support as ordered even if the parents are still married. For example, if the parents live separately, the custodial parent can ask the court to order the noncustodial parent to pay child support, without filing for divorce.

Temporary Orders

If the custodial parent files for divorce, she can immediately request a hearing to address temporary issues, including child support, child custody and alimony. In some counties, the court may allow the custodial parent to request this hearing at the same time she files her divorce paperwork. Orders issued from such hearings are intended to establish support and other arrangements while the divorce is pending. Since spouses need these orders quickly, courts can often expedite these requests and get a hearing scheduled within a few weeks.

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Child Support Calculation

Regardless of when a parent files for support, Georgia calculates child support the same way. In 2007, Georgia switched from the percentage of income model that was based on a set percentage of the noncustodial parent’s income to the income shares model. Under the income shares model, the courts use both parents’ income to determine the support a child should receive. The noncustodial parent pays a share of that total support amount based on his share of the couple’s total income.

Final Orders and Modification

If a parent receives a temporary child support order pending divorce, the court can carry that order over into the final divorce decree. If no temporary order was issued, the final decree will create the child support order. Either way, child support can be modified when circumstances change significantly after the divorce. For example, if the noncustodial parent loses his job or receives a significant pay increase, the financial change in circumstances may be sufficient for the court to modify the previous order. Once a new order is issued, the noncustodial parent can begin paying the new amount. Until then, he must comply with the existing order.

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