One of the main concerns most parents have during their divorce is how it is affecting their children. Because no matter what happens between you and your spouse, you will always be a parent. One of the ways to ensure that the financial needs of children of divorced parents are met is a child support order.
Whether you are currently going through a divorce in Tennessee or your divorce is already final, but you need to modify your child support order, it’s essential to understand how child support works in Tennessee. We will discuss the most frequently asked questions about child support in Tennessee.
What Costs Are Child Support Payments Meant to Cover?
Child support payments are meant to help cover the cost of maintaining the standard of living that the child has grown accustomed to, after their parent’s divorce. They are also intended to cover the child’s basic needs and can also be used to pay for things like rent and utility payments to ensure that their living environment is safe.
Who Decides the Amount of Child Support Payments?
The court uses Tennessee’s Child Support Guidelines to decide who will be responsible for making child support payments. The number of children involved and how much parenting time each parent has will affect the amount of child support payments. Working with an attorney can help you navigate and understand the guidelines.
Which Parent Has to Pay Child Support?
Although both parents are responsible for supporting their children financially, typically, the parent who the child spends less time with is the one who is ordered to pay child support. If the child spends equal time with both parents, the parent who makes the most money will likely end up paying child support to the other parent.
It’s a common misconception that the father will always be the one paying child support. That isn’t always the case. Each parent’s income, how much time each parent spends with the child, and other factors determine who is responsible for paying child support.
When Do Child Support Payments Start and How Long Do They Last?
Child support payments begin to accrue as soon as the parents have physically separated, even if the parents are unmarried. When the order has been established, the paying parent must pay back child support from the date of separation forward.
Support payments must be made until the child is 18 and has graduated high school. The only stipulation is if the child is enrolled in an accelerated program. If that is the case, support payments must continue even if the child is enrolled in college but is under 18 years old.
How Are Child Support Payments Made?
If both parties agree, child support payments can be made between them without involving outside parties. However, at any time, a parent can open a support case with the state for enforcement purposes.
Can the State Force Payments?
The Tennessee Division of Child Support Services (DCSS) and judges have the authority and many tools available to enforce child support payments. Some of these include:
- Seizing bank account balances and investment assets
- Intercepting federal tax refunds
- Garnishing wages
- Revoking your driver’s license or other professional licenses
- Reporting the debt to credit agencies
- Liening your personal property or your home
- If you owe more than $2,500, you cannot apply for a U.S. passport
You are considered in contempt of court for violating a child support order. When this happens, you may also have to pay the other parent’s attorney fees and could also receive jail time.
If you find that you are unable to make the court-ordered payments, you must act quickly and file a petition with the court to modify your payments. If you cannot make the payments due to losing your job, the court may offer you the option to apply for unemployment benefits, as payments can be deducted from unemployment wages.
Can I Deny Visitation For Non-Payment of Child Support
Visitation and child support are two completely separate issues. Therefore, you cannot deny court-ordered visitation if the other parent is behind in child support.
Can Support Payments Be Modified?
Court-ordered child support can be modified in Tennessee if a parent can prove a “significant variance” between what is currently being paid and what would be paid if the order was changed. That variance must be at 15% or more. Other instances where a judge may modify an order include:
- The child becomes disabled
- A significant decrease in a parent’s income
- A substantial change in health insurance premiums
- Increase in the cost of childcare
- A child moves in or out
- One parent has another child
Either parent can ask for a modification at any time. However, the process will be more complex if it’s been less than two years since a review was completed. In this case, the parent requesting the modification must provide information to show what changes have occurred to request another modification.
Are Child Support Payments Taxable?
Per the IRS, Child support payments are not deductible by the paying parent or counted as income for the receiving parent. They can also not be used to calculate the Earned Income Credit.
Let Hunter Fowler Answer Your Child Support Questions
Child support laws in Tennessee can be complex, so working with an experienced attorney can help you understand the specifics. If you still have questions about child support in Tennessee, or if you need to negotiate a new child support agreement or help to modify an existing order, we can help.
Attorney Hunter Fowler knows that you want what’s best for your children. That’s why he makes the needs of your family and your children a priority when working with you.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation.