Written by Rachel Aliza Elovitz
A biological father has a duty to pay child support for his illegitimate child even in the absence of a judicial determination of paternity. A judicial determination is simply a procedural prerequisite to the enforcement of the biological father’s existing duty. The biological father’s duty to support his child begins when the child is born.
Under the Georgia Code, a “duty of support” includes any duty of support imposed or imposable by law or by any court order, decree, or judgment, whether interlocutory (temporary) or final, and whether incidental to a divorce proceeding, judicial separation, separate maintenance action, or otherwise. The term “child support obligor” refers to someone who owes a duty of support to a child – even when such duty is not evidenced by a judgment. Georgia’s Child Support Guidelines must be considered by any court setting the amount of child support to be paid for the support of a minor child. The Guidelines are applied as a rebuttable presumption in all legal proceedings involving a parent’s responsibility to pay child support. The presumptive amount, however, is rebuttable. Deviations from the presumptive amount may be authorized if supported by the required findings of fact and the application of the best interest of the child standard.
If a parent fails to produce reliable evidence of his or her income, such as tax returns, paycheck stubs, a W-2, 1099, or other reliable evidence for use in determining current ability to pay child support, then that parent’s gross income for the current year will be determined by imputing gross income based on a 40 hour work week at minimum wage. Note that each parent’s basic child support obligation under the Georgia Child Support Guidelines may be adjusted by adding the costs of health insurance and work related child care, prorating each in accordance with the parents’ pro rata share of those obligations.
A failure to support ones child financially can result in significant consequences – for the child and the parent. If parents willfully and voluntarily abandon their child, whether legitimate or born in lawful wedlock, and the child is left in a dependent condition, the parent who leaves the child in such condition is guilty of a misdemeanor.
Moreover, if a parent willfully and voluntarily abandons his or her child, legitimate or born in lawful wedlock, leaving it in a dependent condition, and leaves the state of Georgia – or abandons his or her child, legitimate or born in wedlock, leaving it in a dependent condition after leaving the state of Georgia, he or she is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than three years. The felony, under the Georgia Code, “shall be reducible to a misdemeanor.” However, any person, upon conviction of the third offense, is guilty of a felony and shall be imprisoned for not less than one nor more than three years, which felony shall not be reducible to a misdemeanor.
If a court of competent jurisdiction finds that a child is living under circumstances of destitution and suffering, abandonment, or exposure, or that the child has been begging, or that the child is being reared in an environment of immoral, obscene, or indecent influences likely to degrade his or her moral character and devote the child to vicious life, and that by reason of neglect, habitual drunkenness, lewd or vicious habits, or other behavior of the parents that it is necessary for the welfare of the child to protect him or her from such conditions, then the court may order that the parents be deprived of custody of the child and that appropriate measures as provided by law be taken in furtherance of the child’s welfare.
OCGA § 19-7-4 OCGA § 19-6-35 OCGA § 19-10-1 OCGA § 19-11-10 OCGA § 19-6-15 OCGA § 19-11-43 Kennedy v. Kennedy., 309 Ga.App. 590, 711 S.E.2d 103 (Ga. App., 2011)
Rachel A. Elovitz is a domestic litigator who regularly serves as a guardian ad litem, representing the interests of children in custody, abuse, and neglect cases in Georgia’s Superior and Juvenile Courts. She is a regular contributor to the DeKalb Bar News.
Originally published here: