When you become a parent, the law imparts a legal responsibility on you to financially support that child until the child reaches the age of majority. If you live with the child, the law presumes you are fulfilling that financial responsibility by paying for things such as housing, food, and clothing for the child. If you do not live with your child, the law typically orders you to pay child support to ensure that you are fulfilling your financial obligation to your child. What might happen, however, if you get behind on your child support payments? A Tennessee child support attorney explains the possible legal ramifications of betting behind on your child support payments.
Calculating Child Support in Tennessee
When discussing child support in Tennessee, it is important to be familiar with some of the new terminology. For example, 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 which represents that parent’s financial obligation to the child.
By way of illustration, imagine that you earn $8,000 a month and your spouse earns $4,000, there is a combined total of $12,000 available for the care and maintenance of the child. Your share of the total is two-thirds, or 67 percent while the other parent’s share is one-third, or 33 percent. The Guidelines are used to determine how much of the combined income should be made available to the child. Your child support order is then determined by calculating 67 percent of that figure.
Child Support Arrears
Because child support is so common, we often forget that child support is actually a court order. More importantly, violating that court order comes with a host of potential penalties and punishments, such as:
- 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.
What Should I Do If I Am behind on My Child Support Payments?
If you find yourself in a position where you are unable to pay your child support payments, the absolute worst thing you can do is to do nothing. Doing nothing is the best way to find yourself facing some of the more punitive options available to a judge. If the reason for your inability to pay your child support is temporary in nature, pay what you can pay for now and work on catching up when the situation resolves itself. Judge’s are usually more sympathetic if a parent makes an effort to pay something, even if the amount paid falls short of the actual amount ordered. If the cause of your inability to pay is something that will likely be ongoing, attempting to modify your child support order is something you should consider. As long as your decrease in income is not your fault, a judge may consider modifying the order.
Contact a Tennessee Child Support Attorney
If you are falling farther and farther behind on your child support payments in Tennessee, 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.