When the parents of a minor child end their marriage, the divorcee that follows will establish a number of important orders relating to that child. For example, one parent will be designated as the “Primary Residential Parent (PRP)” with the other parenting being designated as the “Alternative Residential Parent (ARP).” The PRP is the parent with whom the child lives the majority of the time. Child support will also be established during the divorce. Unlike most issues that are litigated in a court, however, the issue of child support is one that routinely crops back up again after the order has been entered by the court. Whether you are the parent receiving child support, or the parent paying support, you may feel that you have a valid reason to request a modification of an existing child support order. If so, a divorce attorney from Bennett, Michael & Hornsby explains how often you can modify child support in Tennessee.
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Tennessee Child Support Modification Rules
If you are the parent who is hoping to modify child support, the good news is that Tennessee does not have a hard and fast rule about how often you can request a modification. What Tennessee does require, however, is a showing that there has been a “significant variance” for the court to actually modify a standing child support order.
Consequently, you need to evaluate whether or not your reason for seeking a modification will pass the “significant variance” test. To figure that out, we look to Rule 1240-2-4-.05(2)(c) of the Child Support Guidelines which defines the term “significant variance.” According to that rule, for a court to consider 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.
To determine if your proposed modification meets the significant variance test you will need current financial information from the other parent. Most Parenting Plans require both parties to share financial information on a yearly basis. If you do not already have current financial information for the other parent, check your Parenting Plan to see if your plan has a section addressing the sharing of financial information. If so, request that information in writing from the other parent.
Exceptions to the Significant Variance Test
There are exceptions to the 15 (7.5) percent rule found in the significant variance test. 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. When that is the case, meeting the “significant variance” requirement can be accomplished a number of different ways. Specifically, if any of the following apply, you might qualify for a child support modification:
- 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.
Keep in mind that just because you meet the “significant variance” test you are not guaranteed a modification of child support. Meeting the test only ensures that the court will consider a modification. Consult with an experienced Tennessee divorce attorney about your circumstances.
Contact a Tennessee Divorce Attorney
If you have additional questions or concerns about modifying child support in the State of Tennessee, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Tennessee divorce attorney immediately. Contact the team at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.