In Georgia, failure to pay court ordered child support comes with a variety of penalties. Such penalties generally include: contempt citations, suspension of driver’s, hunting and fishing licenses, denial of passport applications, among others. These penalties were designed in an effort to persuade individuals to be in compliance with court ordered child support. However, while losing your driver’s license may not sound too severe, the ultimate penalty for failure to pay court ordered child support, can be a termination of parental rights.
Georgia statutory law states the following with respect to the termination of non-custodial parents’ parental rights for non-payment of child support, O.C.G.A. § 15-11-94(b)(2). The two most important elements of this law are: the non-payment must be “wanton and willful” and the non-payment must be in contravention of a court order to pay child support.
According to the Georgia Court of Appeals, “wanton and willful” is defined as “without reasonable excuse, with a conscious disregard for duty, willingly, voluntarily, and intentionally.” Thus, for example, if a parent’s non-payment is due to being laid off from his or her employment, such non-payment is not “wanton and willful.” In Uniroyal Goodrich Tire, Co. et al. v. Adams et al., 221 Ga. App. 705 (1996), the court noted that a non-custodial parent’s parental rights may not be terminated due to failure to pay child support if no court order was ever issued obligating that parent to pay child support.
With the above in mind, if you are behind on your child support payments or if your spouse has not made a child support payment in months, contact The Platt Law Firm to schedule a consultation with an experienced family law attorney, (404) 255-3434.