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Child Support: How Is It Determined In Tennessee?

On Behalf of | Jun 14, 2022 | Child Custody

If you are divorcing your spouse and have kids together, the divorce process is more complicated than if no kids were involved. When you have kids, you can’t just split your property and go your separate ways. Child custody and child support need to be established. Naturally, people going through this process have questions about how child support is determined. In short, Tennessee’s Child Support Guidelines establish the means by which child support is calculated in Tennessee.

Tennessee Child Support Guidelines

Tennessee’s child support guidelines provide the minimum base for determining child support obligations. Child support laws in Tennessee presume that both parents will provide financially for the child. The model uses the income of both parents to determine their pro-rata share of financial responsibility for the child’s upbringing. The income of both parents is used to calculate their Basic Child Support Obligation (BCSO). The BCSO establishes the minimum child support obligation for each parent before the court takes any adjustments for parenting time, healthcare insurance, work-related child care expenses, and recurring uninsured medical expenses into consideration.

Tennessee Child Support Worksheets

You can try to calculate your child support obligations by using child support worksheets. Tennessee’s Department of Human Services (DHS) offers these worksheets on their website so parties may calculate their BCSO accurately. The worksheet automatically calculates information once users put in the appropriate information.

However, this is no easy task for someone unfamiliar with the court system. The state requires that parties input information according to state law and holds parties to the same standard regardless of whether they have a lawyer representing them or not. Inaccurately calculating child support can result in more expenses down the road when you have to petition the court to modify the incorrect amount.

And if there is a need to modify child support, a completed child support worksheet must already be on record with the court. This part of the process runs more smoothly with a professional involved who has handled hundreds of similar cases. If you need assistance with establishing child support or understanding Tennessee’s child support worksheets, we have the experience you need to help get it right the first time.

Determining Income

One of the main reasons that people want to know how the court establishes child support is because of the negative connotation behind paying it. Some people believe that the court’s calculation for child support does not consider the amount of income they actually receive. If that’s true, it can result in great financial hardship. Others believe the court requires them to pay an exorbitant amount of child support in comparison to the child’s actual needs.

Truthfully, there are a lot of factors that change a parent’s child support obligation. Although the court uses income reported by each parent to determine each parent’s BCSO, the BCSO creates a rebuttable presumption as to the amount of child support awarded. Meaning that if the BCSO is not realistically affordable, your lawyer can challenge the BCSO. Your lawyer knows how to provide the court with the evidence it needs to justify a deviation from the guidelines.

Calculating Adjusted Gross Income

Otherwise, the court calculates income based on each parent’s adjusted gross income. The adjusted gross income is calculated by taking the gross income and:

  • Adding any social security benefit paid to the child on the parent’s account;
  • Deducting any applicable self-employment taxes; and
  • Deducting any credits from the parent’s gross income based on the financial support paid for that parent’s other children if applicable.

This method provides a straightforward approach for determining each party’s income.

The Effect of Custody on Child Support

Child support laws in Tennessee classify parents as either the “primary residential parent” (PRP) or the “alternate residential parent” (ARP). The PRP is the parent who has custody of the child more than 50% of the time. The ARP is the parent who has custody of the child less than 50% of the time. The ARP pays the PRP child support. Naturally, this means that there is a presumption that less parenting time should increase the ARP’s child support obligation. However, this is also a rebuttable presumption like the ARP’s BCSO—so your attorney can challenge this presumption if the results are unfair or unsustainable.

Enforcing Child Support Orders

When each parent’s rights are established, and a child support order is issued, the PRP collects child support from the ARP for the child’s benefit. However, some things are not so easily won. In Tennessee, payments on child support orders do not have to go through the state. Parties may agree for child support payments to go directly to the PRP.

What happens if an ARP does not pay child support as ordered? Depending on how late the child support payment is, there are a few options available:

If there is not a legitimate reason for the late payment, the court has several options at its disposal to compel payment from the ARP. These include:

  • Ordering that future child support payments be made through a wage assignment order;
  • Seizing investment assets;
  • Intercepting federal tax returns;
  • Reporting outstanding payments to the credit bureau; and
  • Placing a lien on real or personal property.

This is not an all-inclusive list of the court’s methods to compel payment as there are several other methods available. Regardless, nonpayment of court-ordered child support is serious. The court will exhaust any options available to help the PRP obtain the child support payments owed.

Let Our Experienced Attorneys Help.

Our team of Clarksville family law attorneys understands that this is a sensitive time in your life. We are here to help you navigate through this entire process and explain every step along the way. Whether you are a spouse, single parent, or any other individual dealing with child support in Tennessee, our team has the experience you need to diligently achieve a positive outcome for your case. Contact the attorneys at Batson Nolan PLC to get the assistance you need with your family law matter.