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Clarifying the Record on Child Support

Two words serve as the driver of spirited conversations between parents in many jurisdictions. For some parents, their eyes widen and brighten at the mention of these two words. For other parents, it serves as the bane of their existence. Those two words are known to mostly everyone as the term: “child support.”

Many people have notions about child support and opinions about its purpose (or what the purpose should be). Child support is one of the most misunderstood elements of any family law case. However, today we will clarify the record and address several points that are often misunderstood regarding child support.

Child Support Is Not for The Primary Custodial Parent

Child support is understood to be paid by the non-custodial parent for the benefit of the minor children. This is in line with O.C.G.A. § 19-7-2, which, in the relevant part, says: “It is the joint and several duty of each parent to provide for the maintenance, protection, and education of his or her child until the child reaches the age of majority, dies, marries, or becomes emancipated, whichever first occurs…” The language of this statute clearly states that the parent is to provide for the child’s maintenance.

The common gripe, seen on Reddit posts and parental rights forums alike is that “child support is only to enrich the primary custodial parent.” However, this is not exactly the case. The logic behind this statement is divisive; it ignores the reality that children who are under the age of majority are not legally able to exert standing to enforce their rights for support. Ultimately, the children benefit when child support is paid. The Court presumes that money paid by the non-custodial parent funds food, clothing, and shelter for the minor child in question.

Generally, an adult acting as the custodian for a child must enforce these rights. Minors cannot pursue legal action without an adult representative in most jurisdictions. The same is true in Georgia. This is often the reason that in private actions, parents will bring a claim for the establishment or enforcement of child support, or in the case of public actions, the Department of Family and Children Services will bring an action on behalf of the minor child.

Child Support is Not an Arbitrary Dollar Amount

Another common statement in parenting rights circles and casual coffee conversations is that “who determines whether someone should pay $200 or $2,000?” or “child support is an arbitrary number to penalize a parent that doesn’t have custody.” This is another common misunderstanding of the law. Generally, judges cannot arbitrarily set a child support figure. Courts usually determine child support by looking at two important elements: facts that show the income of the parties and a method of calculation based on that income that is built into the law.

In Georgia, O.C.G.A. § 19-6-15 guides how the Court is supposed to calculate child support. Simply put, child support is calculated by looking at the income of both parents. The statute then has a table that provides the basic child support obligation for the children based on that joint income. The amount of income is then split based on a pro-rata basis, and that pro-rata percentage is used to determine the obligation for each party in line with their share of the earnings. The formula also considers payments for medical insurance and other adjustments for additional costs incidental to the rearing of children.

Child Support Is Not Required for Parenting Time

In Georgia, a recent trend that has surfaced is best captured by this saying: “You have to pay to play.” Some parties and even attorneys will argue that in order for a parent to have parenting time, they must pay child support. However, this is not the case. In a prior article I published, Time Over Money in the World of Family Law, I outlined in detail why this position is not supported by the law in Georgia.


Since 1962, Georgia Courts have decided that the legal issues of child support and parenting time are not linked together in a way where child support is a necessary requirement for a parent to get parenting time. See Stewart v. Stewart, 217 Ga. 509, 123 S.E.2d 547. Georgia Courts have gone even further, explicitly stating that child support is not required for a parent to receive parenting time as recently as 2020. Spinark v. Meadows, 355 Ga.App. 857, 844 S.E.2d 482.

As a matter of public policy, child support is not supposed to be used as a barrier to prevent a parent from having access to their children. Rather, a primary basis of child support is to provide a means to financially support children by reallocating financial resources between the parents.

Terminating Your Rights Does Not Automatically Extinguish Your Obligation

Some non-custodial parents who are frustrated with child support want to take the most extreme measure one can take in a domestic relations case; they want to terminate their parental rights. While it is correct that the creation of a legal relationship between a parent and child via legitimation or paternity often results in the creation of a child support obligation for a non-custodial parent; it is not true that terminating your rights relieves you of the obligation to pay support.

When a parent’s rights are involuntarily terminated under Georgia law, the child support obligation ends for that parent. However, if a financial obligation existed before the termination, then the parent has to meet the obligation up to the date of termination. This means that if you owe child support arrears, you will be expected to satisfy the arrears or show the court that the funds have been paid to satisfy the obligation. This is different; however, if the Court finds that the termination is done voluntarily or some facts support that the reason for termination is to avoid child support – the Court will order that the obligation will continue.

Want to Learn More about Child Support and How It Works?

One way to learn about the nuances of child support, what it is for, and how it is calculated is to speak with an attorney about your concerns. If you have any questions about child support, reach out to The Manely Firm to get clarity about the mechanics of child support to ensure that you are paying the right amount and that your children are receiving the appropriate support based on the facts surrounding your case.

Ervin M. Hall