The Division of Child Support Services (DCSS) will take the following steps to service your case:
Step 1: Open a Child Support Case
Either parent can call our office at 1-877-GA-DHS-GO (1-877-423-4746) and schedule an appointment to open a case. Anyone who receives help from the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program or receives certain Medicaid benefits can get help from DCSS without having to apply. All others must complete an application form and pay a fee of $25. You may fill out an application online or you may download an application or you can request an application be emailed to you by calling 1-877-GA-DHS-GO (1-877-423-4746).
Step 2: Locate the Non-custodial Parent
To get a support order, establish paternity or enforce a support order, DCSS must know where the non-custodial parent lives and/or works. It may take several months to get child support if you do not know where the other parent lives or if the address is out of state. There is no guarantee the other parent will be found, but the more information you provide, such as the other parent's date of birth and social security number, the easier it will be.
Step 3: Establish Paternity
Before the court can order child support and medical support, paternity must be established. Paternity means legal fatherhood. If you and the father were not married when the child was born, the biological father can be made the legal father by an administrative or court order. If the man is unwilling to admit paternity, you must sign a paternity affidavit before genetic testing and/or a court hearing can be scheduled. Testing is done by Buccal Swabbing (saliva) or by drawing a blood sample. The test is more than 99% accurate.
Step 4: File a Support Order
A child support order is established based on the Georgia Child Support Guidelines, which consider the income of both parents and the number of children. Sometimes other factors may be considered.
If either parent can get medical insurance for the child at a reasonable cost, the court will consider that cost in deciding the amount of child support awarded. Usually, if the non-custodial parent can get health insurance at a reasonable cost, that parent will be ordered to obtain it for the child.
Step 5: Set up Payment
After a child support order is in place, the support amount will be deducted from the non-custodial parent's paycheck. State law requires immediate income withholding in most cases. This is an easy way for the non-custodial parent to make child support payments. It also provides the non-custodial parent with a record of payments made. If support payments are not deducted from the non-custodial parent's paycheck, they should be paid as directed in the court order. It is very important to keep records of the payments that are made.
The Fatherhood Program can help non-custodial parents who have a case with DCSS and are unable to pay child support.
Step 6: Enforce the Support Order
When the non-custodial parent does not pay the full amount, or does not pay at all, enforcement action is necessary.
If a parent does not obey a support order, he or she may be found in contempt of court. A contempt action may be filed against the non-custodial parent who fails to make support payments or does not maintain the required medical insurance. Non-custodial parents found in contempt of court may be fined, sentenced to jail or both. The judge may order the non-custodial parent who is unable to pay to enroll in the Fatherhood Program. In addition, the non-custodial parent is still obligated to pay the full amount of current and past-due support. The child support order may also be enforced through:
- Withholding child support from paychecks, unemployment or weekly worker's compensation benefits.
- Intercepting federal and/or state income tax refunds.
- Reporting parents delinquent in child support payments to credit bureaus.
- Suspending or revoking driver's, professional, occupational hunting or fishing licenses for failure to pay child support. Staff: see ERG 500 for more information on Driver's License Suspension.
- Intercepting lottery winnings of more than $2,500.
- Filing contempt of court actions, which may result in a jail sentence if the non-custodial parent is found in contempt of court.
- Filing liens to seize matched bank accounts, lump sum worker's compensation settlements and real or personal property.
- Denying, suspending or revoking the passport of someone who owes more than $2,500 in child support.
Step 7: Review the Order
Both parents have the right to ask DCSS to review a child support order three years after the order becomes effective, unless substantial change in circumstances can be shown for orders less than three years old. The request must be made in writing to the child support office handling your case. The review can find that the amount should be less, more or stay the same. Medical insurance may also be added to the order.