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New law amends payment of retroactive child support

If you think back to July 1, chances are good you'll remember grilling, spending time with family and friends, planning for fireworks or even just relaxing. In other words, you'll remember nothing particularly noteworthy about the first day of the long holiday weekend.

While this is understandable, it's important to know that this date was actually very significant in the eyes of the state government. That's because 133 new laws or amendments to existing law took effect here in Tennessee.  

These new laws covered everything from credit card interest to displays of the American flag, but there was one that was especially noteworthy -- at least from the perspective of family law practitioners.

Specifically, lawmakers amended the section of state law dealing with retroactive child support payments by adding a new provision, which declares that retroactive child support may not be awarded by a court for more than five years from the date on which the action for support is filed.

However, the provision also declares that this time limit may be circumvented if the court finds the facts demonstrate (i.e., "good cause has been shown") that an award of more or less than five years would be equitable and just.

Here, the burden of demonstrating that a longer award of retroactive child support is "in the interests of justice" falls on the custodial parent and could be satisfied by showing one of the following non-exclusive factors:

  • The noncustodial parent purposely avoided service or knowingly delayed/impeded the creation of a support obligation.
  • The noncustodial parent prevented or delayed the creation of a support obligation via force, threats or intimidation.
  • The noncustodial parents reasonably feared the establishment of parentage would result in domestic abuse.

As you might have already surmised, the burden of demonstrating that a shorter award of retroactive child support is "in the interests of justice" falls on the noncustodial parent.

It's worth noting that the five-year limitation does not apply to money owed to the Department of Human Services, meaning that state can still collect any assigned arrears owed.

As you can see this is a relatively complex issue. As such, if you have questions about it or any other family law issue, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional who can answer your questions, outline the law and pursue solutions.

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Mr. McKellar was voted by his peers as a “Top Attorney” by Knoxville’s CityView Magazine in its 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017 editions. In 2014, 2015, and 2016, Mr. McKellar was selected as a member of the “Top 100 Trial Lawyers” by the National Trial Lawyers.

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