In Tennessee, if someone has a child who is either under the age of eighteen or is disabled, and that child does not live with a parent full-time, then they have a legal duty to pay child support to the person whom the child lives with.
The amount the supporting parent pays is determined by filling out a worksheet that is available online. (Note: This is solely for the purpose of determining the amount of child support due per month. It is not the same thing as a child support application – learn about the difference here.)
Here’s what the calculation will consider:
- Each parent’s name and the names and birthdays of the children.
- How many days each child spends with each parent or a third-party caregiver.
- “Days” are defined by who the child spends more than 12 hours in a 24-hour period. If the child is in school or daycare, the home of the party where the child wakes up gets credit for that time.
- A “third-party caregiver” could be a grandparent or any other person with whom the child routinely spends time. It could also be a foster care family. If a child is being cared for by a third party, both parents may wind up owing child support to that person.
- How much money each parent makes.
- Remember that for child support purposes, “income” is more broadly defined than just what you report to the IRS. Financial help and gifts from family members might count. Profit from the sale of property or stocks might count. You may need a lawyer to help you find, properly document, and present any of this “hidden” or unusual income.
- Sometimes, a parent is under-employed. Particularly if someone is not working full time, or if they have a college diploma, income may be “imputed,” or inferred based on how much the Court thinks they could potentially earn.
- Self-employed people can manipulate their income, and the Courts know it. Therefore, if the person who owes child support is self-employed, you should ask that their income be averaged over a number of years.
- How much money either of the parents is paying for the child’s portion of a health insurance premium. You can get this information from the Human Resource Department of the employer of each parent.
- How much money either parent is paying for the daycare is necessary for that person to work. Sometimes, you can count private school as a daycare cost. You’ll need to talk to a lawyer about whether this option is something that your Judge routinely does.
- Whether the child receives any public benefits, such as social security.
- Whether either parent is legally liable to pay child support for other children.
- Whether either parent has other minor children living with them.
When you plug in all these numbers, the worksheet will calculate how much child support should be paid, and which parent it should be paid to.
Some other important facts related to child support in Tennessee:
- Child support is required to be calculated, and an Order entered reflecting that calculation, in every single court case, in any court that is dealing with custody of a child. This is true whether it’s in a divorce, or if the parties have a child but are not married, or if a child is in the custody of the Department of Children’s Services.
- The amount of child support is not negotiable. Parents cannot enter an agreement to forego paying or receiving child support or modifying the amount. Such an agreement is not legally binding, so if that agreement is broken, nothing will happen.
- If you owe child support and don’t pay, bad things can happen. A non-paying parent can go to jail for contempt.
- If you are not receiving child support, you have resources available to help you.
- At least if you live in Knox County, and if you have a custody case in Fourth Circuit or Chancery Court, you are required to sign up for Tennessee Child Support Enforcement Services (TCSES). The application is available here. If you don’t sign up, your case cannot be heard.
- People who don’t pay for more than four consecutive months might get their parental rights terminated.
Child support overall is a fairly simple matter, but the devil is in the details.
You should strongly consider hiring a lawyer if:
- You have reason to believe the other parent is hiding money.
- The other parent is under-employed or could make more money
- Either parent is self-employed.
- Your child is disabled or receiving social security benefits
- Your child is in the custody of a third party.
Child support is involved in almost every case we handle. We are proud of our track record in obtaining accurate information and getting great results for our clients in child support court. Give us a call at (865) 685-4780.
The information in this blog was compiled and written by Margaret Held and is accurate as of the time of publication, but laws often change. That’s why it’s important to hire an attorney who keeps up with these changes. Contact us today.