Georgia Supreme Court affirms lump sum child support payment in divorce case
Though child support is generally thought of as being paid in monthly installments, the Georgia Supreme Court recently affirmed a divorce decree which ordered a father to make one lump sum child support payment. Mullin v. Roy, S10F1120 (2010). In that case, shortly after the wife filed for divorce, the husband was arrested for possession of child pornography, lost his $80,000/year job, and began living off a $422,000 inheritance. Id. The husband pled guilty to the charges and was sentenced to five years in prison the day after the divorce trial. Id. at 2.
In its divorce decree, the trial court acknowledged husband’s argument that he will have decreased earning capacity due to his sex offender status upon being released from prison, and calculated child support by settling “on an amount halfway between husband’s and wife’s projections for his future earnings.” Id. Based on the husband’s guilty plea and impending sentence, as well as the dwindling amount that remained of his inheritance, the trial court ordered the husband to pay his entire child support obligation within 60 days. Id. at 3.
The husband appealed, arguing that the court did not have the authority to award lump sum child support. Id. The Georgia Supreme Court agreed, holding that the child support statute “explicitly authorizes trial courts to exercise discretion in setting the amount and timing of payment.” Id.; OCGA §19-6-15(c)(2)(B). Though child support is typically paid in monthly installments, “there is no indication that the 2007 version of the guidelines statute eliminated the longstanding discretion of trial courts to order lump-sum payment under appropriate circumstances.” Id.