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Owe child support in Georgia? A word about those lottery winnings

The common expression, “Leave no stone unturned” certainly applies to the lengthily entitled Georgia Department of Human Services Division of Child Support Services (DCSS) as it goes about its duties.

Specifically, its statutorily mandated task of overseeing and enforcing child support payments owed by noncustodial parents. The DCSS has truly sweeping authority to examine and make claims upon myriad sources of income, virtually being able to take money from a nonpaying parent wherever it finds it.

A Georgia resident who undoubtedly considered himself extremely fortunate recently after discovering he had a winning lottery ticket with a face value of $25,000 just found that out.

Although that noncustodial dad might not even have been familiar with the acronym DCSS when he sought to claim his prize ($17,250 after taxes), he certainly is now.

The reason why: Child support authorities stepped in to demand the entire amount as payment for support payments never made by the man.

There is no question as to whether the DCSS has legal authority to do that. Georgia child support officials can withhold support from paychecks, intercept tax refunds, file liens against savings accounts, seize both real and personal property and, yes, assume the role of super creditor over a nonpayer’s lottery winnings or other gambling windfall.

Thus, the man gets nothing. It is presently unclear, though, whether the DCSS will be able to collect and disburse the winnings, either. Another party has stepped forward to contest ownership of the ticket.

As a result, lottery officials have requested a state court to hold the money and determine how the issue should ultimately be resolved.

Regardless of outcome, though, there is certainly a bottom-line lesson in the story for any person who is in arrears on child support in Georgia: You will be revisiting the matter if a winning lottery ticket is staring you in the face.

Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "$25K Ga. lottery ticket disputed, money could go to child support," Marcus K. Garner, Jan. 23, 2014

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