Common Misconceptions about Child Support in Georgia

March 30, 2023

Child support is a topic that causes most people a lot of stress and anxiety. The purpose of this blog is to help clear up common misconceptions that people have about child support in Georgia.*

Misconception: When a parent gets remarried, child support should be re-calculated to include the new spouse’s income.

Child support is calculated based on the income of the parents of the child, not a step-parent. It is not uncommon for people to ask about seeking a modification of child support when one (or both) of the parents get re-married and have a new combined household income; however, that re-marriage alone is not grounds to seek a modification of support because generally speaking, absent very specific custody or adoption situations, the new spouse/step-parent does not have a legal obligation to support the child.

Misconception: Child support is a fixed number based on the number of children.

A lot of people will compare their child support amount with other people they know and think that someone is paying the wrong amount or there was a miscalculation. For example, one Father may pay $500 per month to the Mother for his child but the Father’s best friend is paying $600 per month for his child. They each have one child, so why are they paying different amounts? The answer is because child support is based on various factors, one of the biggest ones being income. The presumptive child amount is calculated using a formula based on the income of the parties and that alone can make a child support obligation vary greatly from one family to the next. In addition to that, there are various factors that can increase or decrease the amount of child support for things such as travel expenses, insurance costs, and educational expenses.

Misconception: Child support automatically stops when the child turns 18.

The most common provision for child support is “The child support shall continue at the monthly rate…until the child reaches the age of eighteen, dies, marries, or otherwise becomes emancipated; provided that if the child becomes eighteen while enrolled in and attending secondary school (high school) on a fulltime basis, then the child support shall continue for the child until the child has graduated from secondary school (high school) or reaches the age of twenty years of age, whichever occurs first.”

This impacts support obligations two ways.

First, if a child turns 18 before they graduate high school, the obligation to pay child support will continue until the child graduates high school, unless the child does not graduate before they turn 20, at which point the obligation ends. For example, if a child was the youngest in their class or repeated any grades, that parent would pay child support well past their 18th birthday if that is the provision that applies to their child support order.

On the flip side of that point, if a child graduates when they are 17 because they skipped a grade or were the oldest in their class, the child support obligation does not end just because they graduated, but will continue until the child turns 18, even if that is after their graduation day.

*Nothing in this post is intended as legal advice but rather is intended to provide general information. Every case is unique and you should consult an attorney for legal advice specific to your situation and your family.

Brooke A. White

Associate Attorney