A child support lawyer in Murfreesboro, Tennessee at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby addresses questions her clients often ask about child support in Tennessee: what it is, when it applies, who pays and receives it and when it can be changed.

What is child support?

Child support is a monthly monetary amount which is ordered by the Court for one parent to pay another parent, or for one parent to pay a third-party such as a caregiver or the State of Tennessee, in financial support of a child.

When do I have to pay child support?

Anytime it is Ordered by the Court.  This is usually during a divorce, or some other type of custody case.  Once it is ordered by the Court, you will be required to pay each month until a subsequent Court Order has a different requirement or ceases the support.

How is the amount of child support determined?

The amount of child support is calculated by an algorithm using a an excel worksheet, commonly called the child support worksheet, used in all Courts in the state of Tennessee. A blank worksheet, in English and Spanish for both Mac and Windows users, is available to download here: https://www.tn.gov/humanservices/for-families/child-support-services/child-support-guidelines/child-support-calculator-and-worksheet-1.html

This worksheet uses the parties’ incomes, the amount of time each party spends with the child or children, child care expense, health insurance expense and other factors to determine the party who will pay support, the party who will receive support, and the amount of child support. The parties and/or their attorneys enter the figures that apply, and the worksheet calculates .  The Court then enters an Order requiring support consistent with the worksheet calculation.  No divorce with minor children will be approved or finalized by the Court without a child support work sheet and an Order for child support.

Can I get a divorce without having to pay child support?

Only if the child support worksheet, described above, calculates a child support amount of zero. This is normally only in cases where the parties’ incomes, and the time they spend with the children, are both roughly equal.

Will the Court or Judge ever make exceptions to the requirement for child support? 

The Court or Judge may approve a deviation from the amount of child support ordered by the worksheet, but only in certain cases and for certain reasons, such as unusual expenses of the parent in providing for the child, and extraordinary needs of the child or children.

I would rather not pay my ex-spouse and instead give my child the money or items that are equal in value to the amount of child support I owe. May I do this?

Generally, no.  We believe this is not a good idea for several reasons. Although Courts will occasionally allow money spent on a child to reduce the amount of past due child support (“arrears”) owed, this is difficult to prove and calculate. You also take a very likely risk of the Judge not using the value of items you’ve given directly to a child as a credit toward the child support you owe. Although many ex-spouses do not like the idea of giving money directly to the other parent for various reasons, we most often recommend paying child support to the other parent. This can be done through the Tennessee Child Support Receiving Office, by wage assignment (taken directly from your paycheck) or by some documented method such as check.

I have children by other people who are not a party to this case.  Will this affect child support? 

Yes, if you are legally obligated to support the other children. Within the worksheet is a section called the “Credit” page, and any parent may receive credit for any child for whom they are legally responsible.  This usually includes children for whom you are paying or receiving support, or children who are living with you in a subsequent marriage.  The credit is not a dollar for dollar credit, but having children within this section will affect the amount of support.  

May I stop paying support when my child reaches the age of 18

Once a child for whom child support is paid reaches the age of 18, or graduates high school, or the class in which the child belongs graduates high school, the obligation for child support ceases.  However, you may not stop paying support unilaterally, before going to Court and obtaining an Order which either ceases support altogether, or if you still have other minor children for whom you are paying support, which removes from the calculation the child who has turned 18 or whose class has graduated high school. 

Contact a Murfreesboro Child Support Lawyer

If you have questions or concerns about child support, contact a child support lawyer in Murfreesboro, Tennessee at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.

Dinah Michael