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Tennessee divorce, annulment, paternity establishment, separate maintenance, and legal separation actions involving a minor child raise the legal question of parental child support obligations. Although both parents share financial responsibility for supporting their natural and adopted children, with very few exceptions, one parent will be ordered to pay Tennessee child support to the other parent in almost all circumstances.
Applying Tennessee’s child support laws to the facts and circumstances of each case can be a complicated process. Separated parents, married or unmarried, should be prepared for temporary child support orders while the case is pending (with permanent orders to follow).
“What is child support?” is a simple question to answer. Child support is one parent’s obligation to pay the other parent for the support and maintenance of their child or children, pursuant to a court order. The amount of support another parent will pay to another in Tennessee is determined using the Tennessee Child Support Guidelines.
The Tennessee Child Support Guidelines are meant to provide for many different circumstances. Parental income varies, and so do the number of children in each household. The educational needs, special needs, medical and healthcare needs of children vary, too. While many factors need consideration, the judge setting an initial or final child support obligation has limited discretion to deviate from the guidelines.
What Are the Tennessee Child Support Guidelines?
Tennessee uses the Guidelines and a Child Support Worksheet to determine the amount of support that will be paid to the other parent. To estimate child support payments in Tennessee, you first need to know each parent’s adjusted gross income.
For child support purposes, income includes salaries, wages, tips, and commissions, but also pensions and retirement plans. Even without employment, chances are a parent still has income in the form of social security benefits or unemployment compensation. Among other things, income also includes alimony received from previous marriages and capital gains on investments. Gifts and prizes, like lottery winnings, count too.
Further if a parent chooses not to work or to work less to avoid paying child support, the Court may consider that person willfully unemployed or underemployed. In that case, a court can “impute” income, meaning, come up with an amount that this parent should be making, based on employment history, education, and training.
The next major factor in the calculation of child support in Tennessee is the number of days each parent spends with each child. A parent spends money on the child when in his or her care, for any number of things: clothing, food, furniture and furnishings, educational materials, transportation, toys, entertainment, personal care needs, church-sponsored youth activities, and so on. Thus, the more parenting days the non-custodial parent has, the less child support the other parent is presumed to need.
Using the total number of days and each parent’s income, the Guidelines provide for a basic child support obligation to be paid to the other parent. Finally, the parents must share the cost of the child’s health insurance premiums or recurring medical care, as well as work-related childcare expenses. This amount must be divided in the same way as the basic child support obligation – each parent covers a proportionate share based on individual income – and then those proportionate amounts are tacked on to the support total that each parent is obligated to pay. For a discussion on child support and what you can expect, consult the child support attorney Memphis, Tennessee recommends at the office of Wiseman Bray.