The rights of children are enshrined in Georgia law. They play an important part in custody proceedings and other family hearings.
Parents assume legal duties and rights over children as soon as a new child enters the family, whether through birth or adoption.
These rights remain until the child becomes an adult which is at 18-years-old in Georgia or 20 if a child is enrolled in a high school, the child marries or is declared an emancipated minor by a court meaning he or she can live apart and independently of parents.
Under Georgia law parents have an obligation to support their children. They must provide protection, maintenance and ensure the child is educated. In the past, only fathers had a legal duty to support their children in Georgia. However, the U.S. Supreme Court case of Orr v. Orr, which struck down an Alabama statute, extended the duty to provide for children to the mother.
Parents have a wide range of responsibilities toward their children. They must control them and not allow young children to wander the streets. They must provide parental care and feed and clothe children. They must allow their children to access proper medical care if they are sick.
Georgia law also details the obligations of parents to ensure their children go to school or are properly homeschooled until the age of 16.
As long as parents retain parental rights to their children, they have a legal duty to support them financially. This right remains when a child no longer lives in their home after a separation or a divorce.
A failure to look after a child may be punished through the criminal law. Child abandonment is a misdemeanor offense in Georgia. It carries a penalty of a $1,000 fine or up to a year in prison when a parent fails to provide adequate food, clothing, or shelter for the needs of a child for 30 days.
Child support calculations play a major role in many divorce proceedings. Georgia uses an “Income Shares Model” for the calculation of child support. The child support is calculated by using a worksheet created by the Georgia legislative branch.
During a divorce, a child support order is made by the court and will be strictly enforced. Parents who fail to pay child support could be held in contempt of court or charged with abandonment in Georgia. The court may also garnish the wages of a parent who fails to pay child support.
Although child support is typically seen as an issue between parents, if a child lives with a relative such as an uncle, he could also sue a living parent for child support.
Recent laws at a state and federal level have strengthened the enforcement of child support. For example, federal laws help locate parents who abandoned their children via social security numbers and by other legal means. It is becoming more difficult to escape child support obligations in Georgia and elsewhere.
If you require help with a legal matter related to childcare or another family law matter in Georgia, please contact the Law Office of Michael West.