Understanding Child Support

The Division of Child Support Services (DCSS) will take the following steps to service your case:

  • Step 1: Open a child support case

    Either parent can call our office at 1-877-GADHSGO (1-877-423-4746) to get information about how to open a case. Anyone who receives help from the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program or who receives certain Medicaid benefits can get help from DCSS without having to apply. All others must complete an application form and pay a fee of $25. You may fill out an application online, download an application, or  request an application be emailed to you by calling 1-877-GADHSGO (1-877-423-4746).

  • Step 2: Locate the noncustodial parent (NCP)

    To get a support order, establish paternity or enforce a support order, DCSS must know where the noncustodial parent lives and/or works. It may take several months to get child support if you do not know where the other parent lives or if the address is out of state. There is no guarantee the other parent will be found, but the more information you provide, such as the other parent's date of birth and social security number, the easier it will be.

  • Step 3: Establish paternity

    Before a court can order child support and medical support, paternity must be established. If paternity has not already been established or paternity has been established but is being disputed, DCSS will order that a paternity test be conducted. Testing is done by buccal swabbing (saliva) or by drawing a blood sample. The test is more than 99 percent accurate.

  • Step 4: File a support order

    A child support order is established based on the Georgia Child Support Guidelines, which considers the income of both parents and the number of children. Sometimes other factors may be considered.

    If either parent can get medical insurance for the child at a reasonable cost, the court will consider that cost in deciding the amount of child support awarded. Usually, if the NCP can get health insurance at a reasonable cost, that parent will be ordered to obtain it for the child.

  • Step 5: Set-up payment

    After a child support order is in place, the support amount will be deducted from the NCP's paycheck. State law requires immediate income withholding in most cases. This is an easy way for the NCP to make child support payments. It also provides the NCP with a record of payments made. If support payments are not deducted from the NCP's paycheck, they should be paid as directed in the court order. It is very important to keep records of the payments that are made.

    The Fatherhood program can help NCPs who have a case with DCSS and are unable to pay child support.

  • Step 6: Enforce the support order

    When the NCP does not pay the full amount or does not pay at all, enforcement action is necessary.

    If a parent does not obey a support order, he or she may be found in contempt of court. A contempt action may be filed against the NCP who fails to make support payments or does not maintain the required medical insurance. NCPs found in contempt of court may be fined, sentenced to jail or both. The judge may order the NCP who is unable to pay to be enrolled in the Fatherhood program or in the Parental Accountability Court program. In addition to being enrolled on one of these programs, the NCP is still obligated to pay the full amount of current and past-due support. 

    The child support order may also be enforced through one of the following actions:

    • Withholding child support from paychecks, unemployment or weekly worker's compensation benefits
    • Intercepting federal and/or state income tax refunds
    • Reporting the parent’s delinquent child support payments to the three credit reporting bureaus
    • Suspension or revocation of a NCP’s drivers’, professional, occupational or recreational hunting, or fishing licenses for their failure to pay child support as ordered
    • Intercepting lottery winnings when they exceed $2,500
    • Filing contempt actions in the superior court which may result in a jail sentence if the NCP is found to be in contempt of court
    • Filing of liens to seize matched bank accounts, lump sum worker's compensation settlements, and real or personal property
    • Denial, suspension or revocation of the passport of someone who owes more than $2,500 in child support
  • Step 7: Review the order

    Review the order.

    Both parents have the right to ask DCSS to review a child support order three years after the order becomes effective unless a substantial change in circumstances can be shown for orders less than three years old. The request must be made in writing to the child support office handling their case. The review by the local office can result in a recommendation that the amount of support should be less, more or stay the same. Medical insurance may also be added to the order.

To obtain further assistance, you may contact the DCSS Communications Center at 1-877-GADHSGO (1-877-423-4746), or you may search for a listing of any local office by clicking here.

You may also chat with DCSS during normal business hours, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. eastern time, except state holidays when the agency is closed.