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Georgia program takes aim at child support nonpayment

One of the issues that commonly surfaces after a divorce is child support. Georgia’s state guidelines determine the financial obligations of each divorced parent based on several factors, such as income, amount of parenting time, school fees and health insurance costs. However, more than one-third of non-custodial parents in Georgia are unable to pay the amount required for child support.

There are many reasons for this failure to pay, and some of those reasons might even be considered fair. But more often than not, parents who cannot pay are sent to jail, no matter what their reasons are for nonpayment. This can be extremely discouraging, and not at all helpful in solving child support disputes. Furthermore, the stigma of being labeled as a “deadbeat parent” usually comes with being incarcerated.

Fortunately, the Georgia Department of Human Services has announced a new program aimed at resolving the underlying issues that cause many to continually be in arrears. with the new initiative, called Parent Accountability Court, is a 12-month program that aims to help non-custodial parents become self-sufficient so that they can provide their child support payments on time. Instead of regarding child support as an additional expense, the program works to change the parent’s view of their role from merely financial to a holistic role in the child’s life. Hence, stronger relationships between parent and child are fostered.

This program is open to chronic offenders who have been previously jailed due to child support obligations and are in contempt of court. Parents who wish to apply for this program must pass the background check conducted by GDHS, as violent offenders are not eligible for the program.

While GDHS offers a rehabilitative alternative for incarceration, the importance of determining the proper amount of child support to be given by each parent cannot be stressed enough. Doing so will help avoid messy lawsuits and unwanted incarcerations from the start.

Source: CovNews.com, “Helping parents to step up,” Danielle Everson, Nov. 19, 2013

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William C. Gentry, Attorney at Law

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