Tennessee’s Child Support Laws

Last updated on February 15, 2021

Parents have a legal obligation to support their children. Usually, the parent who has the children more then fifty percent (50%) of the time receives child support from the parent that has the children less then fifty percent (50%) of the time. There are some limited exceptions to this such as split parenting arrangements, when the parenting time is approximately equal and the parties are in agreement.

At Parker and LaDuke we have over 53 years of combined experience handling child support issues after and during divorce. Set up a consultation through our online contact form.

The Child Support Process And Retroactive Child Support

When child support is initially set, the court determines the amount of current ongoing monthly child support that the non-custodial parent will pay. How the current support is calculated is explained below.

In addition, the court is required to go back to either the date of the birth of the child or the date of the separation of the parties, whichever is later, in determining retroactive child support. Retroactive child support is support that the court determines should have been paid by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent before the court set current support. This amount is set to judgment as a child support arrearage (back child support) in the court order and is required to be paid in addition to the current ongoing child support.

Shockingly, in Tennessee the court can go back and set eighteen (18) years worth of retroactive support. Not surprisingly, this process can result in five or even six figure judgments for back child support, and devastate the non-custodial parent’s finances.

If you are facing an initial determination of child support it is crucial to be fully informed of the law and know your options in order to obtain the best possible outcome. Don’t get stung with a large retroactive child support judgment because you didn’t speak with a lawyer.

Understanding How Child Support Is Determined

The child support law in Tennessee was significantly modified in June of 2006. The most significant change to Tennessee child support law is found in the analysis of income upon which the child support amount is based. Previously, only the non-custodial parent’s income was considered. For example, support for a single child was a straight twenty one percent (21%) of allowable net income. Now Tennessee uses an income shares model where there is an elaborate calculation that takes many factors into account, including:

  • Both parents’ household incomes
  • Amount of time / overnight visits that child spends in each household (amount of time the child is in custody of each parent)
  • Health insurance premiums for the child
  • Medical and dental expenses
  • Day care expenses
  • Other children the parents are supporting.

If Your Original Child Support Order Was Calculated Prior To 2006 What The Changes In Tennessee Child Support Laws May Mean To You

As a general rule, under the changes enacted in 2006, the custodial parents are receiving more child support as a result of the change in the child support laws, but this is not always the case. Our attorneys will review your specific situation.

Let’s look at a couple of examples:

  • A mother is the custodial parent of a toddler in day care. The father visits the child occasionally on weekends and pays child support, but does not cover the child on his medical or dental insurance. In this instance, the custodial parent — the mother — is likely to benefit from the change in the law. There will likely be an increase in child support paid by this father to compensate for day care expenses and medical insurance.
  • An upper-income father has two families. His first family includes two children, both in school. His second family includes two preschoolers. He covers health insurance for all of the children through his workplace family coverage. His children from his first marriage stay with him every weekend and for the entire summer vacation, as well as on Christmas and Easter vacations. In this instance, a recalculation of child support will likely result in a reduction in the child support order paid by this father.

What If Child Support Is Already Ordered But The Obligor Parent Refuses To Pay?

Refusing to pay child support is serious offense. The offending party can be charged with contempt of court. There are two types of contempt, civil and criminal, both of which can lead to incarceration of the offender. Whether you are a parent who is not receiving their child support, or you have a child support obligation that you have not been able to pay, we represent clients in child support contempt actions. See contempt issues in our articles section of the website for more information about contempt. Please contact us to discuss your case.

Our lawyers offer comprehensive help to clients involved in divorce and those requiring help regarding modifications.

Contact Our Lawyers In Knox County

Every case is different. There are many variables. It may be in your best interest and the interest of your child to ask for a review of your child support case, and you’ll need to contact an attorney for help.