When the parents of a minor child divorce, or decide to end their relationship if they were never legally married, the law dictates that both parents have an ongoing financial responsibility to the child until the child reaches the age of majority. Typically, that means that one parent (usually the father) honors that financial obligation by paying child support on a monthly basis. Unfortunately, not all parents honor their child support obligation willingly. Some parents will even go to great lengths to get out of an ongoing child support order. One common tactic a father may use is to ask the mother, or even threaten, to give up his parental rights to the child, thereby ending his child support obligation. If this sounds familiar to you, you likely want to know if a father can actually get out of paying child support by giving up his rights to the child? A LaVergne divorce attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby explains why a father cannot simply give up his parental rights in order to get out of paying child support.
Parental Financial Responsibility
The State of Tennessee, like other states, requires both parents to contribute financially to the care and maintenance of a child until the child reaches the age of majority. When the parents do not both live with the child, that obligation is fulfilled through the payment of child support. Contrary to what many parents believe, child support is not a right of the custodial parent, but a right of the child. The amount paid in child support is determined using the Tennessee Child Support Guidelines which factor in things such as the income of both parents and the time each parent spends with the child. Child support is not a debt that can be discharged in bankruptcy nor can it be voluntarily “waived” by a parent. In other words, as long as a parent has rights to the child, the parent also has an obligation to support the child. Occasionally, this leads to the idea that conversely, giving up parental rights to a child will discharge the obligation to pay child support. The law does not work that way.
Terminating Parental Rights
Sometimes, when a parent is determined to get out of paying child support, he or she will “offer,” or even threaten, to give up his/her rights to the child. The law, however, does not allow a parent to get out of his/her obligation that easily. The law operates under a “best interest of the child” standard when deciding issues related to a minor child. Because the State often ends up contributing the support of a child who does not have the financial support of both parents, the State has a vested interest in enforcing a parent’s financial obligation to a child. As such, the law will not allow a parent to simply “give up” the rights to a child.
As a general rule, there are only two ways that a parent’s rights can be terminated. The first is by the State of Tennessee in cases where the State can prove that the parent has abused or neglected the child, or is otherwise a danger to the child, and terminating parental rights is in the best interest of the child. This is a lengthy process and is not something the courts take lightly. The other way in which a court will grant the termination of a parent’s rights to a child is when someone else is ready to adopt the child. Typically this occurs in conjunction with a step-parent adoption. The law allows the termination of parental rights in this scenario because someone else is stepping in to take over the financial obligation to support the child.
If your child’s father (or mother) is offering (or threatening) to get out of paying child support by giving up his parental rights to your child, rest assured that the law will not allow that to happen.
Contact a LaVergne Divorce Attorney
If you have additional questions or concerns about child support or termination of parental rights in Tennessee, it is in your best interests to consult with an experienced LaVergne divorce attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.