Attorneys: New Child Support Law Needs Changes; without Modifications, Courts Could Become Backlogged, Costing State Federal Money

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Byline: BRIAN BASINGER

ATLANTA -- Georgia attorneys voiced concern about the state's new child support law Wednesday, warning that the measure needs lots of changes to become more "user-friendly" before taking effect next July.

Brian Skala, assistant district attorney for Dougherty County in Southwest Georgia, made a two-hour presentation on parts of the new law that he and other prosecuting attorneys believe are in need of refining and clarification.

He also said that without modifying the law, courts could become backlogged with child support cases -- a situation that could potentially cost the state $9 million in federal incentives used to encourage the timely processing of child support awards.

"This helps the department to avoid seeking additional state funds for the program," Skala said of the $9 million reward given to the Georgia Department of Human Resources, which oversees the Office of Child Support Enforcement.

The comments were made before members of the Georgia Child Support Commission, which has until year's end to present state lawmakers with a formula for calculating child support that looks at the income of both custodial and non-custodial parents.

The current system only takes into consideration the income of the non-custodial parent, who is usually the father.

Roughly 541,000 children in Georgia -- or 25 percent of those under 18 -- have cases with the state's child support enforcement office.

Among the concerns cited by Skala was a part of the new law which would give a parent extra financial credit for spending more time with his or her child.

Skala worried what would happen if parents get in a dispute over who spent more time with the child and then end up in court, where lawyers could try to bring in the child to testify. …