As any parent knows, children can be expensive. Knowing that, legislators have enacted laws that strongly encourage both parents of a minor child to continue to contribute to the child’s financial support despite a divorce or despite the fact that the parents were never married. If you were ordered to pay child support but are behind on your payments, for any reason, you need to understand the potential consequences you could face as a result. A Murfreesboro child support lawyer explains the potential consequences of not paying your child support in Tennessee.
How Is Child Support Calculated in Tennessee?
The law requires both parents to continue to contribute financially to a minor child without regard to the status of the parents’ relationship. In Tennessee, 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).” Ultimately, the amount of child support the ARP pays is determined using the Tennessee Child Support Guidelines. The Guidelines are lengthy and complex; however, the basic concept is simple. Because both parents are required to contribute to the cost of raising the child, the income of both parents is combined into a theoretical “pot.” Each parent is assigned a percentage of the pot. For example, if you earn $2,000 a month and your spouse earns $6,000, there is a combined total of $8,000 available to the child. Your share of the total is 25 percent and your spouse’s share is 75 percent. At this point, you must refer to the Guidelines to determine how much of the combined income should be made available to the child. For instance, let’s assume the Guidelines indicate that of the $8,000 earned by both parents each month, $2,000 should be used for the care and maintenance of the child. Your share of the $2,000 each month is $500 ($2,000 x 0.25 = $500) while the other parent would be responsible for the remaining 75 percent, or $1,500. If no other deductions or credits applied, child support would then be ordered in the amount of $1,500 payable from the ARP to the PRP.
What Happens If You Fall Behind on Your Child Support Payments?
A parent can fall behind on court-ordered child support payments for numerous reasons. Although some parents intentionally avoid paying child support, most parents who fall behind do so for reasons out of their control. If you are behind on your support, you may eventually receive a summons for court to address the issue. This could happen because the other parent notified the court of the arrears and requested a hearing or it could be a result of the other parent applying for assistance such as Medicaid or Food Stamps.
The worst thing you can do if summoned to court is to ignore the summons. Keep in mind that the original child support order is just that – a court order. Failing to pay as directed, therefore, is a violation of that court order. Likewise, the summons you receive is also an order to appear before the court. Failing to show up, therefore, is also a violation of the court’s order. If you have what you believe to be a valid explanation for falling behind on your child support obligation, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced child support attorney as soon as you are notified of the hearing.
When you do go to court for the hearing, the court can handle your arrearage in a number of ways, including:
- Order that future child support and arrearages be paid through a wage assignment order;
- Reduce the arrearage (amount owed) to judgment;
- Order an extra arrearage payment amount to be paid monthly;
- Reimburse the parent owed support for filing fees, court costs, and attorney’s fees for having to bring the petition to enforce child support;
- 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 hunting and driving licenses;
- Find the delinquent parent in civil or criminal contempt;
- Order the parent to jail for a period of time or until a certain amount is paid (purge payment); and
- Order the delinquent to serve jail time for willful failure to pay child support.
Contact a Murfreesboro Child Support Lawyer
If you are behind on your child support payments in the State of Tennessee, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Murfreesboro child support lawyer immediately. Contact the team at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.