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Modification of Child Support and/or Alimony After the Loss of a Job in Georgia

by Meriwether & Tharp LLP

With the state of the economy in the United States today, it is not uncommon to hear that more and more people are losing their jobs and having difficulty finding new jobs that pay as well as their previous ones. While this is obviously having a huge effect on our economy as a whole, it is also creating new difficulties with individual's child support obligations.

If you find yourself in this type of position, it is important to learn what to do, and not to do. The biggest mistake we see people make is that they don't do anything. They stop paying child support and do not file anything with the court seeking assistance with this type of situation. This is the quickest way to find yourself in a contempt action and facing possible jail time.

Instead, if you are no longer able to pay child support or alimony because of your changed financial status, you can and should file a modification action with the court. This is the only way to legally change your support obligation. The court will not honor any verbal agreements that you and your spouse may make.

According to O.C.G.A. § 19-6-17(c) and 19-6-19(a), you can file a modification with the court every two years from either the date of the Final Judgment and Decree in your divorce case or two years from the date of the Order granted in a previous modification action. You can file an action to modify child support or alimony if you and your former spouse either had a downward (i.e. one party lost their job or got a new job where they make less money than their previous one) or an upward (i.e. one party got a job where they make more money) change in income or financial status. If one party decides they need to modify the previous Order, the process is very similar to that of a divorce action.

The first step is to file a Petition for Modification with the court. The petition will detail the amount of money you were ordered to pay by the court and the reasons why you are no longer able to pay this amount to your former spouse. Your former spouse can respond to the allegations in your Petition by filing an Answer with the court. In a perfect world, the parties would decide upon the new amount owed, enter into a consent agreement to amend the child support or alimony award, and then the judge assigned to your case would enter into an Order modifying the amount. Sometimes, however, it is not that simple. In these cases, the parties have a hearing in front of the judge and leave it to the judge to decide whether a modification is warranted and the new amount of child support or alimony.

The law firm of Meriwether & Tharp was established in 1998 in Norcross, Georgia by partners Patrick L. Meriwether and Robert L. Tharp. In 2000, the offices were relocated from Norcross to Alpharetta, Georgia and the firm began expanding its professional staff and focusing its practice on family and business law matters, including divorce, contempt, and modification actions. At Meriwether & Tharp our experienced family law attorneys recognize that domestic troubles can be emotionally and financially taxing. Our lawyers provide personal, individualized legal services, covering the full spectrum of family law issues.

They can be contacted by phone at (678) 879-9000 or
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