The parents of a minor child have a legal obligation to financially support the child, whether the parents remain together or not. That often requires a court to issues a child support order. Knowing how child support is calculated is important for both the parent paying and the parent receiving support. In addition, child support issues are a common cause for litigation, due in large part to the frequently changing circumstances of both parents and children.
At Bennett | Michael | Hornsby we can help you navigate the complex Tennessee child support system to ensure that your rights, and the rights of your child, are protected.
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Tennessee Child Support Obligation
The State of Tennessee imposes a legal obligation on both parents to financially support a minor child until the child reaches the age of majority, or longer in some cases. The parent who pays child support is typically the “Alternative Residential Parent (ARP)” while the parent who receives child support is usually the “Primary Residential Parent (PRP).” The amount of child support the ARP (or “payor”) pays is determined using the Tennessee Child Support Guidelines.
When deciding child support, the income of both parents is considered along with factors such as how many nights the child spends with each parent, the cost of childcare, and health care expenses. Once the court determines how much child support is to be paid by one parent to the other, that decision becomes a final order of the court. Failing to pay child support, therefore, is a violation of a court order.
What Happens to a Parent Who Fails to Pay Child Support?
When a payor gets behind in child support payments, a court may eventually issue a summons to that parent ordering him/her to appear before the court. At the subsequent hearing, the court has considerable discretion when addressing the issue and may do any of the following:
- Order payments through a wage assignment order.
- Reduce the amount owed to judgment.
- Order an extra arrearage payment amount to be paid monthly.
- Award filing fees, court costs, and attorney’s fees to the payee parent
- Award 12% simple interest on unpaid child support.
- Order the delinquent parent to pick up trash.
- Revoke certain licenses issued by the State of Tennessee, including a driver’s license.
- Find the delinquent parent in civil or criminal contempt.
- Order a delinquent parent to serve time in jail.
Can Child Support Be Modified?
Either parent may request a child support modification (increase or decrease) at any time in Tennessee. To consider a modification of an existing child support order, however, the parent requesting the order must show that there has been a “significant variance” that warrants the change.
Rule 1240-2-4-.05(2)(c) of the Tennessee Child Support Guidelines offers guidance on what qualifies as a “significant variance.” The most common situations that qualify as a “significant variance” include:
- The proposed modification (based on relevant factors) varies 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.
- The APR (or payor) is now legally required to support an additional child.
- The child has become disabled.
The parents can agree to a modification of the existing child support order; however, that agreement must still be submitted to the court along with the completed child support worksheets for approval.
The Murfreesboro child support attorneys at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby have a wealth of experience helping parents establish or modify child support. We can also help you if you are facing a court hearing for failing to pay child support. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.
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