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Child Support in Tennessee

April 9, 2018
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child support in TennesseeWhich parent is responsible for child support in Tennessee?

One question that we often hear from parents going through a divorce is, “Which parent is responsible for paying child support?” The simple answer is that both parties are responsible. However, although you are both legally obligated to financially support your children, there are a variety of factors — including parenting time, income, and the number of children — that determine the exact amount of child support owed by each parent.  

Typically the parent that the child lives with the majority of the time (also known as the primary residential parent) receives child support payment from the other parents (also referred to as the alternate residential parent). This may sound unfair, but it works this way because it is assumed that the primary residential parent is already spending money on the child.

How is the amount of child support determined?

As mentioned previously, child support is determined based on several factors including income, parenting time, and how many children the couple has. When it comes to what is considered to be income in Tennessee, the list includes:

  • Wages or salary
  • Bonuses
  • Overtime payments
  • Commissions, tips, and fees
  • Severance pay
  • Income from self-employment
  • Pensions or retirement plans
  • Annuity income, interest, and dividends
  • Social security or disability
  • Workers compensation
  • Net capital gains
  • Alimony (from previous or later spouses)
  • Lottery winnings, prizes, and gifts
  • Unemployment
  • Money received from civil judgments

To determine the specific amount of child support owed, the state of Tennessee relies on specific Child Support Guidelines detailed by the Department of Human Services. These guidelines include using a Child Support Worksheet to simplify the process of determining what is owed.

Can the amount of child support owed differ from the guidelines?

Although child support is typically calculated using the Tennessee Child Support Guidelines, there are sometimes exceptions to the rules. If either party feels that the amount of child support owed is unfair, they can ask the court to deviate from the guidelines before a final order is issued. Typically courts will not delineate from the state guidelines, but if either party can prove that the amount is unjust or that a change will benefit the child, the court may make an adjustment. Some instances where this may be the case include travel costs incurred if parents live a long distance from one another or exorbitant expenses associated with medical needs or education.

Can the amount of child support owed be modified?

In some circumstances, the amount of child support owed can be modified after the final order has been issued. One common reason for modification is a significant change in income (15 percent or more) from either loss of a job or a job promotion. Other factors such as a change of custody or healthcare needs of the child can also result in changes to the amount of child support owed.

If you are going through a divorce or in the process of determining child support in Tennessee, it is important to consult an experienced family law attorney to ensure the amount is properly calculated and that there are no exceptions to the guidelines that should be taken into account. If you are looking for a family law attorney to assist with child support calculations, contact our team today.

Ken Phillips
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