One state’s child support law puts focus on Georgia, other states

The term “United States” underscores the reality that our country is comprised of multiple units, each with some variance in governing bodies and the laws enacted that affect local residents.

That variance certainly exists in family law, where legal requirements across a wide spectrum of matters can affect Georgia residents quite differently from residents in other states, with legislation and court decisions providing for different outcomes.

That is true with the division of property, where some states have a community property distribution law, with others, like Georgia, being equitable distribution states. It is also true with alimony, where varied outcomes exist among the states.

It is true again with child support, with state courts and legislators across the country having broad latitude to enact local laws and rules that can differ substantially from those of neighbor states.

In Georgia, for instance, the general rule on child support is that the duty of a non-custodial parent to pay ceases when a child turns 18 or graduates from high school (whichever occurs last, with the stipulation that support duties absolutely end when a child turns 20).

By contrast, and until a change was ordered just last week by the Alabama Supreme Court, non-custodial parents in that neighboring state could be ordered to pay college costs for their children beyond the age of 19. The result: In some instances, a parent could be legally tasked to continue paying support well into a child’s third decade.

That was the case from 1989, pursuant to a ruling from that state’s Supreme Court, until the reversal announced last week by the same tribunal. The court’s majority ruling last Friday states that the earlier ruling lacked any basis in state law.

The matter now returns to the legislature, where law makers will determine whether an exception to the state’s cut off limit at age 19 for support payments will be made when a child is enrolled in college.

Child support can involve a number of factors, as well as considerations that are unique in each case. An experienced family law attorney can provide detailed information.

Source: Miami Herald, “Ala. Supreme court issues major divorce ruling,” Phillip Rawls, Oct. 4, 2013

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