The law expects both parents of a minor child to contribute to the child’s financial support and maintenance. If the parents are married, or living together, the law presumes that both parents are doing their part to contribute to the child’s future. If the parents are divorced, or never lived together to begin with, the law usually requires one parent to pay child support to the other parent. What happens though, if you are unable to pay your child support as ordered by the court at some point? If you find yourself in that situation right now, the worst thing you can do is to do nothing. Doing nothing will eventually result in serious negative consequences. Instead, you should contact an experienced Tennessee divorce lawyer to help you modify your existing child support order.
How Child Support Is Initially Ordered
In the State of Tennessee, child support is one of the issues found in the “Parenting Plan” that the parties to a divorce are required to submit to the court. A Parenting Plan is essentially a roadmap for how the parents of a minor child will parent the child after a divorce. The amount of child support to be paid from one parent to the other parent is calculated using the Tennessee Child Support Guidelines and is usually included in the overall Parenting Plan. What people sometimes forget is that once the child support amount is incorporated into the final divorce decree the child support obligation becomes an order of the court. Therefore, failing to pay your child support is a violation of that order.
What Happens If You Do Nothing?
Your child support obligation is an order of the court. Not paying it violates that order. Violating a court order, in turn, can have serious negative consequences, including:
- Garnishment of wages
- Revocation of professional license
- Keep your tax refund
- Revoke your passport
- Ordered to perform community work service
- Ordered to pay additional interest on the arrearage
People often make the mistake of letting the situation go on for much longer than it should. Sometimes this happens because the belief is that something will happen that allows the payor to get caught back up. Often, however, a payor does nothing because he/she thinks that nothing can be done. Doing nothing though makes it look as though your failure to pay is willful, or intentional.
How Can a Divorce Lawyer Help?
Fortunately, it is possible to modify a child support order after it has been entered; however, there are guidelines that apply and procedures that must be followed if you hope to get your child support order modified. In the State of Tennessee, either parent may request a review of the existing child support order; however, if there has been a review within the previous two years you will have to show there has been a “significant change in circumstances” to warrant another review. Examples of things that might qualify as a “significant change in circumstances” include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Birth of another child that you are legally obligated to support
- A child who was part of the original calculations has reached the age of majority or been emancipated.
- Either party has a significant change in income.
In order to get a “variance,” Tennessee’s term for a modification, you must show a minimum 15 percent difference (or 7.5 percent for a low income provider) between the amount of the proposed order and the amount of the existing order.
As you can see, there are a number of variables that go into determining if you are entitled to a review of your child support order. If granted a review, you must then prove that you qualify for a variance. Because you may only get one shot at changing your child support order you should have an experienced Tennessee divorce lawyer by your side to increase your chances of getting your support lowered.
If you are currently behind on your child support, or you are concerned that you are going to fall behind, it is in your best interest to consult with the experienced Tennessee divorce attorneys at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.