Georgia Child Support payments are required to be paid pursuant to an income deduction order, but the parties have the right to waive that requirement. An income deduction order ("IDO") is an order signed by a judge that is served on the non-custodial parent's employer. The IDO directs the employer to deduct the child support funds from the employee's pay check before the employee receives their pay. A relatively recent change in Georgia Law requires that whenever an IDO is used, those funds must be paid through Child Support Services.
So who needs to have an IDO in place? In my opinion the only time an IDO should be used is when the non-custodial parent has a history of failing to pay court ordered child support. Who doesn't need an IDO? Everyone else!
That being said, I suppose some non-custodial parents would prefer to have their employer take the support out of their check before they receive it, perhaps because that non-custodial parent knows they will fail to pay the child support unless an IDO is used. This would seem to be a sad state of affairs, but I suppose some people just need other people to exercise such control over them to ensure they do the right thing.
Before the change in the law directing all IDO payments to flow through Child Support Services, some custodial parents may have been happy to receive the child support directly from the employer, but what happens when the non-custodial parent changes jobs? The new employer must be identified and a new IDO must be put in place.
Generally speaking and for privacy's sake, why would anyone want their employer to be involved in the payment of a child support order?
Child Support Services is a government agency and I suppose it serves its purpose. I do not know the explanation for this, but Child Support Services ("CSS") appears to be relatively, highly dysfunctional. When individuals cannot afford to retain a private attorney to represent them in their pursuit of a non-custodial parent and seeking a child support order, they may not have any choice but to use CSS. But if that non-custodial parent is not cooperative with the process, many times CSS is rendered ineffectual. If you are the non-custodial parent and are ordered to pay child support, and you believe you are paying too much, good luck getting CSS to reduce your support obligation, even if you clearly deserve a reduction.
CSS applies many "rules" which are not Georgia Law, but which if you use CSS you must comply with their "rules." One such rule is the "three year rule." CSS will not even consider modifying a child support order, unless three years have gone by since the order was entered. However, Georgia Law provides that the first modification may be brought at any time after the entry of the initial child support order, but that after a first modification is filed the party that sought modification must wait for two years before they can refile again. Thus, the CSS "three year rule" is not consistent with Georgia Law, but if using CSS you have to follow their "rules."
Generally speaking, and except for those who simply cannot afford a private attorney, no one should want CSS involved in their lives. CSS has a way of creating unnecessary problems, more so for non-custodial parents, but also for custodial parents.
With the advent of the new laws regarding IDO's and the requirement that they be paid through CSS, very few people will be well served by using an IDO, again, except in the situation where a non-custodial parent has a history of not paying their child support as ordered.
What happens when there is an IDO in place, being paid through CSS and the child has reached the age of 18 and has graduated from high school, such that legally speaking the obligation to pay child support has ended? Will the IDO simply stop? Not necessarily. Will CSS stop collecting the money and or begin pursuit of arrears if the IDO stops? Not necessarily.
It depends in large part on the language of the child support order. Sometimes the order can reflect the actual date on which support will terminate, but many times this is not possible. Some employers will not halt an IDO without an order from the court. So when the child reaches age 18 and has graduated from high school, the non-custodial parent may have to go back to court to obtain an order from the judge that modifies and terminates the IDO. If the custodial parent is cooperative in the termination of the IDO, then this can be accomplished relatively easily by submitting a Consent Order signed by both parents and explaining the child has aged out of child support, there are no arrears owed and the IDO should cease. If the custodial parent is not cooperative, then the non-custodial parent must file a Motion and wait for 30 days for the response to come due, and then potentially have to go to a hearing on the matter. All the while money is still being withheld from the non-custodial parent's income by their employer and then paid over to CSS, to eventually be paid to the custodial parent. You can practically forget about obtaining a refund from CSS.
If you are paying child support pursuant to an IDO, you cannot do anything about those payments flowing through CSS. However, before the child ages out of child support you need to closely review the Child Support Order and the IDO, and you need to discuss the matter with the payroll office at your employer. You may need to retain the services of a lawyer to ensure that the IDO stops as soon as the child support obligation ends, otherwise additional funds will likely be withdrawn from your check and paid over to CSS, never to be recovered by you.
If you have any questions about your IDO or CSS's involvement in your child support case, and particularly if the child is about to age out of the support obligation, feel free to contact me for a free consultation.
Taylor Hopkins, Esquire