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The Orlando Shaw Case: How Would Georgia Law Apply?

How would Georgia law apply to a divorce, child custody, paternity or legitimation action in which 22 children were involved? Well, we will soon find out how the law of Tennessee would apply in such a case when the Davidson County, Tennessee Juvenile Court determines the outcome in the Orlando Shaw matter.

According to Nashville media outlets, Orlando Shaw, a Tennessee native who has fathered 22 children with 14 women, is currently facing what is possibly one of Tennessee’s most expansive and expensive child support cases. The mothers of Shaw’s children have sought the intervention of the Davidson County court system in order to recover several thousands of dollars in unpaid child support. The 33 year old Shaw argues that he is unable to meet his substantial child support burden due to his inability to obtain adequate employment because of his prior criminal record.

Even if Shaw did not face any difficulty in finding employment, Magistrate Judge Scott Rosenberg, the presiding judge in the matter, suggested in a statement that one job may be grossly insufficient. According to Magistrate Rosenberg, Shaw would likely have to take on up to three or four full time jobs to even come close to being able to satisfy his child support obligation. In addition to the difficulty that Shaw will face in meeting his obligation, Magistrate Rosenberg will likely face some difficulty himself in applying Tennessee state law to Shaw’s case. In a statement, Magistrate Rosenberg questioned: “How do we apply our child support guidelines to this many children in this many households?”

Applying this very question to Georgia law, we find that it is very likely that any Georgia judge in Magistrate Rosenberg’s position would likely be momentarily puzzled as well. According to Georgia law, child support shall be calculated using Georgia’s Child Support Worksheet. Taking a look at the worksheet, it becomes clear that a matter involving more than 20 children was not anticipated by the child support commission, as the worksheet only allows for child support calculations for up to 12 children at a time. See Georgia’s Guide to Implementation of The New Child Support Guidelines, Part I, Section 5.

One solution a court would likely consider in a matter such as the Shaw case where the children reside is different households, is allowing for adjustments for other, preexisting child support orders by utilizing Schedule B of the child support worksheet. Additionally, as the number of the adjustments that may be made in Schedule B is also limited, the likely outcome in a case such as the Shaw matter is that the presiding court would utilize is discretion in determining the child support amount that should be awarded to the custodial parents. See generally O.C.G.A. 19-6-15. Hopefully no Georgia court will be presented with facts such as those of the Shaw case, but if they were, it would be interesting to analyze the court’s determination in the matter.


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