Does Georgia Child Support Automatically Terminate Upon Emancipation?
Although there are a number of ways for a child to emancipate in Georgia, the most common method is that the child is at least 18 years of age and has graduated from high school.
If you have been ordered to pay child support in Georgia for multiple children (with all children having been born to the same parent), you may believe that your child support obligation will automatically reduce by a certain amount or percentage as the children emancipate.
While this may appear like a logical and simple calculation (“I had two minor children, now I only have one minor child so shouldn’t I only be required to pay half as much child support?”), unfortunately, the law does not permit an automatic reduction in this manner.
The problem with an automatic reduction in this manner is that the Georgia Child Support Guidelines are not being followed when subsequently calculating child support for the remaining child(ren).
Georgia law requires that any child support award (whether it is for one, two, or three children) be calculated pursuant to the Child Support Guidelines.
Child Support Case Law
For example, in Scott-Lasley v. Lasley, the Georgia Supreme Court held that when an award of child support is made for several children and the trial court provides for reductions in child support as the children reach majority, the trial court may not reduce the child support on a pro rata or per child, but must instead do so in accordance with the child support guidelines. Scott-Lasley v. Lasley, 278 Ga. 671 (2004).
This means that if a parent is ordered to pay $1,000 per month in child support for two children, upon the older child’s emancipation that parent cannot automatically reduce the payment to $500 simply because there is now only one minor child. The proper procedure is for the parties to use the Child Support Guidelines to calculate child support for two children, and then one child.
Part of this reasoning lies in the fact that the custodial parent’s expenses are not necessarily reduced in half merely because one child emancipated. For example, the expenses to heat the child’s home, pay for the mortgage or rent for the child’s home, and similar expenses are either not reduced at all or are not necessarily reduced by 50 percent.
If you are a father facing a child support obligation for multiple children (and all children being born between the same parents) and you desire to have an automatic reduction in your support obligation as each child emancipates, then you must enter a separate Child Support Worksheet for each reduction.
For example, if you have three children, and you and the custodial parent agree to automatic reductions in the child support obligation, then you must present the court with three different Child Support Worksheets. Each Child Support Worksheet must correspond for your obligation for three children, then two, and finally one.
Keep in mind, however, that this type of agreement does not negate either party’s right to request a modification of the child support obligation as provided for by Georgia law.
Finally, it is important to understand that an automatic reduction is not a “right.” It is within the judge’s discretion as to whether or not to grant an automatic reduction in child support.