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What can a court (in Georgia) do if a parent does not pay the child support that is mandated by the court decree that ended the marriage? What do courts usually do in such a situation? Is the court response likely to be different if it is the mother rather than the father that owes the child support?

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The court itself will do little unless there is imminent danger to the child. You are mostly responsible for finding a lawyer to file a court order, or getting other legal aid to do that, or taking actions that you can do yourself, like applying for wage and bank garnishments.

The court (ideally) operates as a neutral party in the dispute; the court depends on prosecutors, child advocates and parents to bring the child support issues to the attention of the court where the court can weight the facts. You or a lawyer have to bring child support issues to the attention of the court for the court to make a ruling (unless a child advocate feels that the child is in danger, and then the court may be proactive). In some cases in the list (below) of actions to take, the legal entity is not the court itself, but a state agency that has the legal authority.

There will be little difference to the court in the fact that the delinquent payee is the mother or the father; the court will make determinations on the facts of the case, i.e., income levels, lateness of payments, ability to pay, current laws, etc.

Here is an outline of your options, taken from Enforcing Child Support | GeorgiaLegalAid.org:

File a "Contempt Action" in Court

A parent who is behind in child support is in contempt of the court order... and can be ordered to pay what is owed... The contempt action must be filed in the court that ordered the child support to be paid. (You will probably need the help of a lawyer for this; if you don't have one or can't afford one, contact GeorgiaLegalAid.org | A guide to free and low-cost legal aid, assistance and services in Georgia).

Get an Income Deduction Order

An Income Deduction Order... orders the non-custodial parent's employer to withhold the amount of child support from that parent's paycheck. (See FAQ's | Income Withholding Order website - georgiacourts.gov).

Contact Child Support Enforcement

The Georgia Department of Human Resources has a Child Support Enforcement Division ("CSE"). CSE can help you get the court order enforced. CSE can also help you get a portion of the non-custodial parent's tax refund if you request it by August of each year.

If the absent parent is receiving workers' compensation benefits, CSE can contact the Workers' Compensation Board, get information about the case and pursue collection of child support through garnishment of that parent's Workers Compensation benefits. CSE can also collect child support from the absent parent's unemployment compensation. O.C.G.A. § 34-8-198. (See Child Support Services | Georgia Department of Human Services).

Other Options:

Get a lien on property, file a garnishment of their bank account, get a wage withholding, request that the court deny or suspend his or her driver's license, professional license, hunting or fishing license. (See Enforcing Child Support | GeorgiaLegalAid.org).

  • Another common step is for a child support judgment creditor to issue debtor's interrogatories to the debtor. This requires the debtor to identify all employers, bank accounts, etc. from which the judgment can be collected, on pain of being held in contempt of court for failure to cooperated. – ohwilleke Nov 21 '17 at 5:32
  • You say "The court itself will do little unless there is imminent danger" but then go on to describe all sorts of remedies. Are you saying that if the custodial parent can support the child without help from the non-custodial parent, then the court will not be helpful in enforcing the child support requirements that the divorce decree puts on the non-custodial parent? – user3270 Nov 21 '17 at 12:15
  • What I mean is that the court (ideally) operates as a neutral party in the dispute; the court depends on prosecutors, child advocates and parents to bring the child support issues to the attention of the court where the court can weight the facts. You or a lawyer have to bring child support issues to the attention of the court for the court to make a ruling (unless a child advocate feels that the child is in danger, and then the court may be proactive). In some cases in the list of actions to take, the legal entity is not the court itself, but a state agency that has the legal authority. – BlueDogRanch Nov 21 '17 at 15:50
  • The fact that "the custodial parent can support the child without help from the non-custodial parent" may come into play, depending on if GA state law allows for the court to determine that if the financial ability of the custodial parent is sufficient, then child support payments are not legally necessary. – BlueDogRanch Nov 21 '17 at 15:51
  • And ohwilleke's comment is accurate; issuing debtor's interrogatories may be part of the process in some of the possible actions I listed by lawyers, state agencies or courts. – BlueDogRanch Nov 21 '17 at 15:56

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