When the parents of a minor child divorce, a number of important issues relating to the child must be resolved during the divorce process. Which parent will be the Primary Residential Parent (the parent with whom the child lives most of the time)? When will the Alternative Residential Parent (the other parent) exercise parenting time with the child? Will child support be ordered and, if so, how much? What makes divorce even more complicated is the fact that the answers to all of the questions could change down the road, long after the divorce is final. If the custody arrangements in your divorce are modified after the divorce is final, will that modification also change the existing child support order?
Tennessee Parenting Plan
In 2001, a new Parenting Plan law went into effect in Tennessee. The overall purpose of the Parenting Plan requirement is to encourage both parents of a minor child to continue to be part of the child’s life after the divorce is finalized. By creating a Parenting Plan, the idea is that the parents will have guidelines in place to help them co-parent post-divorce. Although every Parenting Plan is unique, most will include things such as:
- A schedule that sets forth, in detail, when the child will spend parenting time with each parent during the school year, summer break, and holidays.
- Who will have day-to-day and major decision-making authority.
- Who will pay for things such as medical insurance and expenses, daycare, and extra-curricular activities.
- How much child support one parent will pay to the other.
- How much contact the non-residential parent may have with the child and how that contact may occur (telephone, computer etc.)
- How disputes will be handled.
It is far from unusual for one of the parents to want to modify the custody provisions of a Parenting Plan at some point after the divorce is final. It is possible to modify custody; however, for the court to even consider modifying custody the parent requesting the modification must show a “change of circumstances which materially alters the child’s well-being” to justify the requested modification. Typically, the parent requesting the modification must also submit a proposed modified Parenting Plan as well so the parties and the court can see everything that would change if the modification is approved. That will likely include a change in the current child support order.
Changing Child Support
Child support is calculated using the Tennessee child support guidelines. A number of factors go into deciding how much child support must be paid by one parent to the other parent, including who is the Primary Residential Parent and how many overnights the Alternative Residential Parent has with the child each year. If the request to modify custody is granted, all of that will likely change as well. Consequently, a new child support worksheet will need to be submitted showing how the change in custody changes the amount of child support due.
A word of warning though. Judges hear hundreds of requests for modification every year. If your primary intent in modifying custody is to get your child support obligation lowered, or to do away with it altogether, the court will likely figure this out and it could cause a backfire. If you pursue a modification of custody and subsequent change to child support, make sure your intentions are not related solely to the financial burden of child support. Consulting with an experienced Tennessee child support attorney before you proceed with a motion to modify is the best way to ensure that your request is taken seriously.
Contact a Tennessee Child Support Attorney
If you have questions or concerns about modifying custody or child support in the State of Tennessee, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Tennessee child support attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.
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