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Child Support

When Can The Court Deviate From Child Support Guidelines

If you have friends who are divorced with children, or you have children and have gone through a divorce, then you are probably familiar with the Tennessee Child Support Guidelines.

But what if your situation is different than the typical divorce or what if your child has some sort of expense that is not considered by the guidelines?

The guidelines provide direction as to how unusual or extraordinary expenses are to be handled. Basically, the amount of support established by the guidelines are rebuttable, and if you can show a different amount is in the best interest of the child and that the deviation is allowed by the guideline, then the court may grant a deviation. Keep in mind that this will be in the discretion of the court.

Some of the factors that the court has to consider are the relative economic circumstances of the parents, parenting time-related travel and extraordinary expenses associated with the child.

Extraordinary expenses may be education expenses for private school or tuition room and board for boarding schools. The court may consider if the private school costs are appropriate for the parents’ lifestyle and income and if the parties were still residing together and also if historically the child has attended private school. The court may also consider if the child has any special educational requirements that are better served in private schools.

If the court does allow the cost of private education to be considered, it will be entered as extraordinary education monthly expense in the deviation section and not as work-related childcare. The Court of Appeals has specifically held that private school tuition is not appropriate to include in the work-related childcare section.

“Special Expenses” may also be considered by the court. Special expenses, “include, but are not limited to, summer camp, music or art lessons, travel, school-sponsored extracurricular activities, such as band, clubs, and athletics, and other activities intended to enhance the athletic, social or cultural development of a child, but that are not otherwise required to be used,” in the child support worksheets. The guidelines provide that if the cost of these special expenses exceed 7% of the basic child support obligation, then the court shall consider these expenses in determining if a deviation is appropriate.

Worksheets are available online where you can input the necessary financial information and determine the child support obligation. Once the numbers are entered, the guidelines produce the recommended child support figure.

If you are wondering if your circumstances could support a deviation from the child support guidelines, please call Held Law Firm, and we will be happy to help.