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Georgia Court of Appeals reverses Dekalb County Superior Court’s upward modification of child support

The Georgia Court of Appeals recently reversed a Dekalb County Superior Court’s grant of an upward child support modification. In that case, a mother filed for a modification of her child support obligation against her ex-husband, who had primary physical custody of their children. Harris v. Williams, 304 Ga. App. 390 (2010).

This trial court’s decision to increase the mother’s child support obligation is somewhat unique because the mother asked for a modification, but “did not allege any change in her income or financial status to support a modification of her child support, and [the father] did not file a counterclaim to modify child support.” Id. at 393. Yet the trial court still increased the child support obligation. In order to modify child support, a party must show “a substantial change in either parent’s income and financial status or the needs of the child[ren].” OCGA§19-6-15(k)(1). In this case, there was no evidence that the mother’s income or earning capacity had increased, and nothing was mentioned about any increased needs of the children.Harris, 304 Ga. App. at 394.

Generally, a trial court’s decision on a child support modification is reviewed for an “abuse of discretion” and, if there is evidence to support the trial court’s decision, the appellate court will affirm. Id. at 393. Here, due to the lack of evidence supporting a modification, the Georgia Court of Appeals found that the trial court abused its discretion in increasing the mother’s child support obligation, and reversed that portion of the judgment. Id. at 394.

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