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Child Support

 in a Tennessee Divorce

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Tennessee Child Support Overview

Parents have a legal duty to provide financial support for the care and maintenance of their minor or dependent children. A child support order helps to ensure that both parents continue to meet their financial responsibilities in relation to their children.  In arriving at a fair amount of child support in a Tennessee divorce, you should (and in the event of a contested trial, the court will) consider the needs of the children and the financial assets, earnings, expenses, and needs of each parent. In Tennessee, we use the Tennessee Department of Human Services Child Support Services Division Child Support Guidelines. You may access the TN Child Support Guidelines by clicking on the following link: take me to the TN Child Support Guidelines. 


The Tennessee Child Support Guidelines are based on an Income Shares Model. This model presumes that both parents contribute to the financial support of the child in pro rata proportion to the actual income available to each parent. Each parents’ actual income and actual additional expenses of rearing the child are considered and made part of the support order under the Income Shares model. Determining the amount of child support under the Income Shares model is based on the concept that the child should receive support at the same level that the child would receive if the parents were living together. The State of Tennessee acknowledges that expenditures of two-household divorced, separated, or single parent families are different from intact family households.  However, the State of Tennessee maintains that  it is very important that the children of Tennessee, to the extent possible, not be forced to live in poverty because of family disruption, and that they be afforded the same opportunities available to children in intact families consisting of parents with similar financial means to those of their own parents.


The income ratio is the biggest factor in calculating child support, and the number of days each parent spends with the children is the next most important factor.  In Tennessee, the Tennessee Child Support Worksheet is used to calculate child support in accordance to the TN Child Support Guidelines.   The child support worksheet is designed to simplify the long, complex, and confusing Tennessee Child Support Guidelines. You may download the child support worksheet by clicking the following link: Download Tennessee Child Support Worksheet. 


Unlike the previous guidelines, items such as medical expenses, insurance, educational cost, and other children are figured into the formula. The main variables that will need to be imputed into the child support worksheet to calculate child support are each parent’s adjusted gross income, the time each parent spends with the children, and adjustments for additional expenses each parent incurs for the benefit of the minor children. The Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) is the net determination of a parent’s income, calculated by modifying the parent’s gross income as follows: (1) adding to the parent’s gross income any social security benefit paid to the child on the parent’s account; (2) deducting from gross income any applicable self-employment taxes being paid by the parent; and (3) deducting from gross income any credits as set forth in these Rules for the individual parent’s other children for whom the parent is legally responsible and is actually supporting. 


            For purposes of completing the child support worksheet, a “day” of parenting time occurs when the child spends more than twelve consecutive hours in a twenty-four hour period under the care, control or direct supervision of one parent or caretaker. Pursuant to the Tennessee Child Support Guidelines, the twenty-four hour period need not be the same as a twenty-four hour calendar day. Accordingly, a “day” of parenting time may encompass either an overnight period or a daytime period, or a combination thereof.  Adjustments for Additional Expenses are the additional expenses associated with the cost of health care insurance for the child, work-related childcare, and recurring uninsured medical expenses are not included in the Basic Child Support Obligation (BCSO) and must be added to the BCSO to determine the Adjusted Support Obligation (ASO).                       


The court can require support of a normal child only until the age of eighteen or until the child graduates with his or her regular high school class.  You can provide for college, but you must do so by agreement, as the court cannot order it.  Tennessee does not require a parent to put a child through college.  If you have a child with a developmental or physical disability, be sure to let me know, as it may be possible to have support continue after an impaired child turns eighteen.  However, this should be done before the child turns eighteen.  If the child’s needs or the parent’s ability to pay support substantially and materially changes (defined by the Guidelines as 15 percent), then child support can be raised or lowered.  A bond can be required to ensure the payment of past, present, and future child support, or a lien may be placed on property for that purpose.  The court can also order the support to be deducted from the payer's paycheck. The law currently places a lot of pressure on the court to use payroll deduction(wage assignment order). 


The Four Core Areas of Divorce

Throughout the divorce process, you will have to make many decisions that may have an immense effect on you, your finances, and your children.  There are four core areas that you will have to make decisions regarding.  They are child custody and visitation, child support, the division of marital property, and spousal support.  Click the links below to learn more about each of the core areas of a divorce.

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By reading Divorce with Dignity, you will learn:

  • 12 important steps to take when contemplating divorce,

  • How to determine whether or not you need a divorce lawyer,

  • How to choose the right divorce lawyer for you,

  • How to save on attorney fees and court costs,

  • How child custody is determined in Tennessee,

  • How child visitation is determined in Tennessee,

  • How child support is determined in Tennessee,

  • How alimony is determined in Tennessee,

  • How property is divided in a Tennessee divorce,

  • How to maintain control throughout the divorce process,

  • How to reduce tension between you and your spouse,

  • How to protect your finances throughout the divorce process, and

  • How to protect your children throughout the divorce process.

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