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Domestically Dirty Words, Part II: Child Support

Tonight's post on Child Support was written by our Atlanta Family Law Attorney, Cherese Clark.

In Part 1 of this blog series I discussed the what some may think is equivalent to blasphemy in domestic litigation, the term "settlement." The next domestically dirty word, or words, deserve some attention is a term that strikes fear in the hearts of many non-custodial parents- "child support."

When you examine each word separately, "child" then "support," both words would normally bring a smile to faces and pleasant thoughts. Only parents can understand the love you have for your child and your overwhelming desire to support your child's dreams and endeavors. But when you put the words "child" and "support" side by side, for some it turns into dirty notion tainted filth. Why is that? Two simple terms that if broken down to the barest bones actually aren't at all dirty?

While the word "child" may be fairly self explanatory, the definition still warrants mention to fully understand the my point. The word child is defied as " a son or daughter of human parents." "Support" means "to give help and assistance to" and "to promote the interests or cause of." Now, when you combine the two, "child support" means to assist and promote the interest of a son or daughter of human parents. The support is not for the son or daughter of monsters or animals. So why does the idea of child support sometimes turn two people that created something so beautiful into savage beasts?

Throughout the metro Atlanta area I have experienced several repeating scenarios in which child support's dirty perception manifests: 1. a party wants to low ball income to avoid their child support "bill" (another's words, not mine); 2. a party answers a petition for child support with a counter claim for custody to avoid child support; or 3. one side tries to negotiate shared custody to zero out child support so that neither party will have to pay. Although all three scenarios are very different, a commonality beaming through them is that all three fail to consider what's in the best interest of the child, which is the standard in determining child support under Georgia law.

One major concern parties have is that the custodial parent is not using the support money for the benefit of the child. While I do understand the sentiment, this idea does not consider all of the expenses it takes to raise a child. What about housing and food for the child, gas to shuttle the child to and from school and activities, utilities that may increase in the household, incidental expenses not contemplated by the child support calculator?

Georgia courts rarely, if at all, get into the business of scrutinizing how support is used in the custodial parent's home. If every Judge micromanaged the finances of the parties in every child support case, litigation would be prolonged and protracted. Either way it goes, if either parent, custodial or non-custodial, intentionally miscalculate income or misuse support funds, then the only person suffering is the child. Remember your subjective intentions are not what matter in this, it is what is in the best interest of your child.

Family law is an emotional area of practice because two things that people love most intersect- children and money. However, if you keep in mind the definitions of "child" and "support," it is clear that "child support" is not a dirty word but an honorable one.

Cherese Clark 

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