Modification of Child Support

child support modificationThe divorce is over and the final orders have been signed. The formerly married couple is now ready to begin their lives as single parents. Then, circumstances change and one or the other of them wants to make changes to the court order concerning child support. Under Georgia law, either parent can petition the court for modification of child support if certain criteria are met.

Criteria for modification of a child support order

According to Georgia law, a parent can only petition the court for a modification of a child support order if there has been “a substantial change in either parent’s income and financial status or the needs of the child.” Some changes in circumstances that qualify include:

  • The paying parent involuntary losses his or her job.
  • The paying parent becomes too ill to work.
  • Either parent receives additional income due to remarriage, promotion at work or even winning the lottery.
  • The needs of the child change.
  • The child moves in with the paying parent.
  • There has been a change in the law governing the calculation of child support.

A petition for modification may only be filed every two years unless certain exceptions apply. The burden is on the parent who files the petition for modification to prove that circumstances have changed to such a substantial degree since the final order was entered that a modification is warranted. If the court agrees the evidence supports the request for modification, and that the modification is in the best interest of the child, it will issue an official and binding court order.

When paying parents lose their job or have income reduction

If paying parents involuntarily lose their jobs, or suffer a 25 percent reduction in income, a petition for modification can be immediately filed even if it has not been two years since a previous modification request. The court may make a temporary order reducing the amount of child support until a full hearing can take place.

Informal agreements are not binding

Ex-spouses who are co-parenting sometimes enter into informal agreements concerning modification of child support without court involvement. Such agreements are not binding and have no legal effect unless they are filed with the court and signed by the judge. This can create problems for either parent. If the receiving parent informally agrees to a reduction in child support payments, that parent can still go the court and ask for the original order to be enforced. If the paying parent agrees to increase the amount and then does not do so, since the increase was not ordered by the court, there is no way for the receiving parent to enforce it.

Attorney fees and court costs

Under the Georgia Family Code, the court has the discretion to award attorney fees and other costs of litigation to the prevailing party if the court determines that such an order would be in the “interests of justice.”

Whether you are a custodial or noncustodial parent, an experienced family law attorney can assist you with filing a petition for modification of a child support order or assist you in challenging a request for modification.

Family-Owned Business Succession | Atlanta Business Lawyer

Family-Owned Business SuccessionAccording to the Small Business Administration (SBA), family-owned businesses account for between 80 and 90 percent of all large and small businesses in the country. Even so, barely one-third of them carry over into the next generation, often due to discord and lack of planning.

How to Keep Family-Owned Businesses Thriving

Many experienced business consultants, and also Atlanta business lawyers like Nancy Ghertner, have suggestions for keeping a family business alive and thriving well into the second and third generations. The main recommendation that is found consistently is to treat the business like a business, not like an extension of the family. Some specific recommendations include:

  • Have a written business plan: The business must have a written business plan with goals articulated and a mission defined so that all members are in agreement about the purpose of the business. The plan should include details of how the business will be passed on to the next generation.
  • Define the roles: The role of each family member participating in the business should have his or her duties specifically articulated. The compensation should be in writing as well as how the ownership shares will be divided. Anything that would be written for non-family member employees should also be written for family members.
  • Establish a chain of command: The decision-making hierarchy needs to be clear. Employees often resent being told what to do by a family member the employee does not report to. Also, family members need to be aware of who in the hierarchy they report to so that one family member does not overstep his or her authority by “bossing around” the others.
  • Set boundaries: When family members mix their personal lives with their work lives, it is too easy for them to continuously “talk shop” or bring their personal problems from home to work with them. As much as possible, there should be boundaries set. Shop talk should be reserved for the workplace, and family problems worked out at home.
  • Treat all workers fairly: It is easy to either favor family members over non-family members, or to go overboard trying to avoid favoritism to a degree that family members are not treated fairly. The same work standards and required qualifications should apply to all employees whether they are family members or not.
  • Treat all employees equally: All employees should have the same pay scale, work schedules and opportunity for advancement. Avoid giving a family member a “sympathy” job based only on the fact that the person is a family member. Employment should not be based on the family relationship, but rather because the family member has the qualifications necessary to do the job.

Communicate, communicate, communicate: One consistent piece of advice is to maintain communication. This is true in any business, but family business relationships take on a dynamic that makes clear communication even more important. Regularly-scheduled weekly meetings are an excellent feature to establish where all employees, including family members, feel free to express their concerns, so disagreements can be solved before they fester out of control.

Call Family-Owned Business Lawyer in Atlanta Nancy N. Ghertner Today

Attorney Ghertner has almost 30 years of experience working with family members who are in business together. She can help you craft shareholder agreements, articles of incorporation and contracts, and employee agreements.