Most legal issues are permanently resolved when the court enters a final order in the matter. Child support, however, is not like a contract dispute, a criminal prosecution, or a claim for damages as a result of negligence. Child support is one of the few areas of the law where a final order is rarely final. Whether you are the payee or the payor, a Murfreesboro divorce attorney may be able to help you modify an existing child support order if the conditions warrant a modification.
Why Would Child Support Need to Be Modified?
There are an endless number of circumstances that might prompt the parent receiving or the parent paying child support to seek a modification. Some of the most common of those include:
- Loss of a job
- Reduced income from employment
- Move to another state
- Increased expenses for the child
- Birth of another child
Although these are all common reasons why a parent might seek to increase or decrease the current child support order, they may not all result in a modification.
Tennessee Law Regarding Modification of Child Support
The legal system recognizes the fact that the factors that determine a child support order at the time the order is entered are rarely stagnant. Parents may change jobs, families may move, and the costs involved in raising a child tend to increase as the child gets older. For this reason, Tennessee law contemplates requests for modification of child support with guidelines that dictate when and how a modification may be requested and approved. Those guidelines allow a parent to request a modification of child support at any time; however, if you request a modification you must show that there has been a “significant variance” for the court to entertain a change in the amount of child support currently ordered. Of course, that begs the question of what qualifies as a “significant variance.”
Meeting the “Significant Variance” Test
Rule 1240-2-4-.05(2)(c) of the Child Support Guidelines defines what constitutes a “significant variance.” According to that rule, for a court to even entertain a request to modify, the proposed child support order must vary from the current order by at least 15 percent or more unless the parties are considered “low income” parents in which case the proposed order must vary by 7.5 percent or more. For purposes of modifying a child support order, a low-income parent is defined as a parent who:
- Is not willfully and voluntarily unemployed or underemployed when working at his/her full capacity according to his/her education and experience; and
- Has an Adjusted Gross Income at or below the federal poverty level for a single adult.
There are notable exceptions to the 15 (7.5) percent rule. One of those is found in Rule 1240-2-4-.05(a) which states, in pertinent part “… [T]he necessity of providing for the child’s health care needs shall be a basis for modification regardless of whether a modification in the amount of child support is warranted by other criteria.” This exception allows for a modification of child support without the need to prove a “significant variance.”
Another potential exception to the 15 percent rule occurs when the order you wish to modify was entered prior to January 18, 2005. In that case, there are several different scenarios that will allow for a modification of child support, including:
- At least a fifteen percent (15%) change in the gross income of the ARP; and/or
- A change in the number of children for whom the ARP is legally responsible and actually supporting; and/or
- A child supported by this order becoming disabled; and/or
- The parties voluntarily entering into an agreed order to modify support in compliance with these Rules, and submitting completed worksheets with the agreed order; and
- At least a fifteen percent (15%) change between the amount of the current support order and the proposed amount of the obligor parent’s pro rata share of the BCSO if the current support is one hundred dollars ($100) or greater per month and at least fifteen dollars ($15) if the current support is less than one hundred dollars ($100) per month.
Contact a Murfreesboro Divorce Attorney
If you wish to modify a child support order in the State of Tennessee, consult with an experienced Murfreesboro child support attorney as soon as possible. Contact the team at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.