Child support issues can vary from simple to very complicated depending on the facts and issues involved. However, here is a very good start and understanding this complex subject in Tennessee.
1. Child support is based upon the Tennessee Income Shares Worksheet. This worksheet calculates child support based on the following variables:
*Both parties gross monthly incomes (this is BEFORE taxes, insurance or any other thing come out)
* Number of co-parenting days for each party
* Daycare costs
* Health insurance costs for the child/ren only
* Credits for child support paid for other children or for other children living in the home
* Recurring medical payments, if any
2. Child support begins to accrue (that means it starts to add up) immediately upon the parents physically separating. Regardless of if you are married or not, this is true. For example, if the parents separate on June 1st, 2015 and do not get into child support court until December 1st, 2015, and the Court finds that child support should be $300 per month, then the paying parent will owe the other parent 6 months of payments, or 6 times $300, which is $1,800 that must be paid back, over time, with interest.
3. Adoption assistance and alimony from the parent of the child with whom you are seeking/paying support is not included as income for child support purposes.
4. Child support may be paid through the state but does not have to be. Parties my voluntarily choose to have payment go directly between them and not involve the state. However, either parent may open a state child support case at any time for payment or enforcement purposes.
5. In order to get credit for a “day” of co-parenting for child support purposes, that usually involves the child spending the night with you, or spending 12 hours in a 24 hour period.
6. Speaking of days, regardless of what your court ordered parenting plan says, many child support judges will calculate child support based on what is actually happening regarding co-parenting and not what is on the plan. For example, if you are supposed to co-parent for 120 days per year, but the testimony shows you actually only exercised 80, many times your child support will be calculated using 80 days, and not 120.
7. If one parent is unemployed or underemployed, the child support judge can “impute” income to them. That number can often be minimum wage at 40 hours per week, resulting in an income of $1257.00 per month. The court can also use the state mandated average income, or look a person’s previous earnings and use that number based on an average and ability to earn.
8. In order for child support to end, the child must both reach the age of 18 and graduate high school. Child support does not stop until both of those requirements have been met.
9. The Court system can enforce payment of child support via civil and criminal contempt, jail time, revocation of driver’s licenses, wage garnishment, and income tax refund garnishment.
10. In order to modify your child support, you must meet a 15% eligibility threshold, meaning that your current obligation must be 15% higher or lower than what you should actually be paying based on a recalculation. Also, you must file a Petition to Modify for your credit to begin to accrue. For example, if your income goes down on January 1st and you are eligible for a downward modification, but you don’t file your Petition until June, you will owe the old higher rate from January through June.