Child Support

childsupportdivorcelawyerfranklinWhen parents divorce or are unmarried, a court will determine how much child support should be paid to the Primary Residential Parent of the children. The Primary Residential Parent is what Tennessee calls the parent that spends 50% or more of the time with the child. This is what most people consider the “custodial” parent. Under Tennessee law, parents must support their children until the child turns 18 years old or graduates from high school, whichever is later.

Tennessee sets child support by using an income shares model. This manner of setting child support takes into consideration several factors: which parent is the Primary Residential Parent, how many children need to be supported, the number of days each parent spends with the children, each parent’s gross monthly income, the expense of covering the children’s health insurance, recurring medical expenses for the children, work-related childcare and whether either parent is supporting other children (in or out of that parent’s home). The final child support number is determined by putting each of these different factors into the Tennessee Child Support Calculator. Each parent is responsible for supporting the child according to his or her share of the combined income.

The guidelines for how child support will be established are extremely clear, and there is little an attorney can do to increase or decrease child support. However, an experienced child support attorney, like Ms. Castles, can advocate on your behalf, gathering information to make sure that all numbers run in the Child Support Calculator are accurate. This is especially helpful when one parent is not working. If you are the parent paying child support, you want to ensure that the other parent’s income is set as high as possible, which may mean you need to request that the court impute income to that parent. The court can impute the parent’s income when that parent chooses not to work, even though they have the ability to work, or when that parent has willfully chosen to underemploy themselves. If you are the parent receiving child support, you also want to ensure that the other parent’s income is set as high as possible, thereby increasing your child support.

For more information about how Tennessee courts calculate child support, you can read the full text of the Tennessee Child Support Guidelines.

To estimate how much your monthly child support payments might be, visit the Tennessee Child Support Calculator.

Unmarried Parents

In Tennessee, when a child is born out-of-wedlock, the Mother is presumed to be the custodial parent until the Father establishes his parentage and requests that a Parenting Plan be entered. Before the Mother can request child support and/or before the Father can request parenting time, parentage must be established.

Just because you are on a child’s birth certificate does not make you the child’s legal father. If you wish to be established as the child’s legal father, contact our office today to discuss what needs to be done before you are entitled to any visitation with your child.

Divorcing Parents

If children are born during a marriage, the Husband is presumed to be the legal father of those children, unlike the fathers of children born out-of-wedlock. This means that child support will be set up through the divorce process, and the amount of support will be affected by the number of days you spend with your children pursuant to your Permanent Parenting Plan, as well as both parents’ incomes and the other factors addressed above.

If you wish to file for divorce and your Wife has had a child during the marriage that is not your biological child, you need to speak with an experienced paternity lawyer to discuss how to overcome the presumption that you are that child’s legal father. This must be done in the divorce process or you will be ordered to pay support for that child following a divorce.

How Courts Determine a Parent’s Income

Before setting a monthly child support amount, the court must first determine what each parent’s gross monthly income is. A parent’s gross income can include income from many sources, including wages, commission, bonuses, severance pay, overtime pay, interest, trust income, capital gains, Social Security benefits, workers’ compensation, unemployment benefits, judgments, gifts, dividends or prizes. This means that parents may be required to disclose income from any of those sources. If you do not have this information about the other parent’s income, proof of income may be requested through the discovery process or by issuing subpoenas for work records to the parent’s employer.

Child Support Deviations

Tennessee judges assume that the Child Support Guidelines will provide the right amount of support to children. This means judges are hesitant to deviate from the guidelines and only do so in rare circumstances. Deviations can occur when a judge believes the Guidelines will not sufficiently provide for the child involved or if following the Guidelines would result in an unfair situation to the parents.

If you have questions about whether your circumstances would justify a deviation from the Child Support Guidelines, contact our office today to schedule a free consultation.

Child Support Modification

Many parents contact my office each week asking about a child support modification. In Tennessee, you are entitled to modify child support – either for an increase or a decrease – if it will make a 15% difference in what is currently being paid and what would be paid after the modification.

The following situations could justify a modification of your child support obligation:

  • A change in either parent’s income
  • A change in the number of children the nonresidential parent cares for or provides support for
  • The child in question becomes disabled
  • The parents reach an agreement to modify the award. However, in this circumstance, the court must approve any deviation from the Child Support Worksheet.

The process of modifying child support can be difficult and technical. Contact our office today for a free consultation to see if you are entitled to a modification. To ensure better advice, be sure to bring all court documents that have already established child support, including your Child Support Worksheet, and also the most current paystubs you have available.

Non-payment of child support

If your child’s other parent is ordered to pay child support and has failed to do so, he or she may be in contempt of court. You can file a petition with the court seeking either criminal or civil contempt remedies. In these cases, the court will determine the amount of child support arrearages owed (back-owed child support), add interest to child support that has not been paid, possibly place the non-paying parent in jail, and in civil contempt cases may award your attorney’s fees. Once a parent has failed to pay his or her child support obligation, the courts may also issue a Wage Assignment Order, which will ensure you are paid in the future by taking the money directly from that parent’s paycheck.

Will the Court Consider My Spouse’s Income?

No. Courts do not look at the income of step-parents to determine child support.

Ms. Castles has represented parents in child support cases throughout the Nashville area, including in Rutherford County, Wilson County, Sumner County,  Davidson County, and Maury County.

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