How to Modify Child Support with the Office of Child Support Services in Georgia
The purpose of this guide is to assist Custodial and Non-Custodial parents in modifying Child Support through the Georgia Office of Child Support Services, also known as: Child Support Enforcement and Department of Human Services (DHS).
Should You File for Modification Through Child Support Services or the Superior Court?There are advantages and disadvantages of filing for modification through Child Support Services. In determining what is best for your particular situation it is always best to obtain a legal consultation from an experienced child support attorney. However, when making your decision, the following must be considered: Timing: If you file for modification with Child Support Services, you must wait at least 36 months from the date of the initial order to request a modification. This time requirement is mandatory and does not take into consideration whether or not a parent has lost their job. However, this same waiting period does not apply if the modification action is brought in Superior Court. In Superior Court you must prove that there has been a substantial change in circumstance. Cost: There are no upfront fees when attempting to modify child support with Child Support Services. However, when filing for modification with the Superior Court, you will be responsible for the filing fee (between $205-$221) and the cost to have the opposing party served with your law suit ($50-$125). While there are no upfront costs with Child Support Services, should the court ultimately modify the order for child support, the parent requesting the modification will have to reimburse Child Support Services the filing fees. However, this fee is typically not requested until the conclusion of the case. Evidence: If you file for modification with Child Support Services, you may not have the opportunity to thoroughly examine the income of the opposing party. The law forbids Child Support Services from disclosing the other party's information. Thus, while you may know what the opposing party earns, you may not be allowed to view pay stubs or critically exam other important information being used in the child support calculation. This information can be obtained in a technical sense but it is likely best to utilize the assistance of an attorney to obtain the same. However, if you request for modification through the Superior Court, you will have access to the other party's financial information via the Discovery Process (this is the formal exchange of information and documents). Additionally, the parties will be required to exchange financial affidavits wherein you have the opportunity to critical examine the income and spending of the opposing party. Length of Process: If you request modification through Child Support Services, do not expect a quick turn around. Child Support Services processes many cases and sometimes it takes an extraordinary amount of time to see results. Many times it is necessary to call to check the status of your case on a steady and consistent basis. I would not expect a response in less than 6 months. However, if the modification is filed through the Superior Court there are mechanisms to be heard quickly. For example, you may get a temporary increase or decrease by requesting a Temporary Hearing at the on-set of the case. There are additional factors which could be considered, but the above are the most important.
What do I Need to File For Modification?You must first obtain an application to request a review of your child support obligation. I suggest obtaining an application from your local Child Support Services Office. This information is available online, but I have had client experience significant delays because they submitted the "wrong" application. Save time by doing it right the first time. Complete and notarize the ENTIRE application. Your application will be rejected if not complete. Additionally, be sure to supply ALL requested documents i.e. Tax Returns, Paystubs, Medical Insurance Premiums etc. Do not be afraid to provide other documents relevant to your particular situation, i.e. log of all jobs applied for, copies of disability statements, medical records, school records, etc. Remember that you must submit documents which prove that a modification is warranted. It is never enough to request modification without submitting proof that a modification is necessary. Keep duplicate copies of ALL documents submitted to Child Support Services. Mail application to address listed on application. However, mail the application via certified mail/return receipt requested. Too many have been penalized for documents "lost" in the mail. Protect yourself by sending the information certified/return receipt requested. Lastly, be sure to include a copy of the current order for child support with your application.
Should I Accept or Reject the Agency Recommendation?After submitting your application for review of child support, at some point in the future, you will receive a Notice stating the Agency Recommendation for your child support. If you agree with decision you should accept the same in writing. If you do not agree with the Agency recommendation you can reject the recommendation and request a hearing before a judge. At the hearing you will be afforded the opportunity to present evidence supporting your position. However, in order to prevent a Default Judgment from being entered against you, you must respond to the Agency Recommendation. The response should clearly indicate whether or not you accept the recommendation. Immediately mail the response to Child Support Services via certified mail/return receipt requested. Again, keep a duplicate copy of the response for your records. There is typically a 20-30 day window to respond. However, it has been my experience that parents receive the recommendation 5-7 days after the date listed on the recommendation. (In some counties it is even worse)