Generally, once a child support order is entered in Tennessee, the parent who receives support on behalf a child does not have to account for how they spend the money. As much as you may think your kids look they’re dressed from another century but your ex looks like something out of Vogue, your ex-spouse or partner doesn’t need to keep an itemized list of expenses.
Child support orders focus on the following factors:
- How much does each parent earn?
- What are the assets of each parent such as the home, cars, and bank accounts?
- How many children does each parent support?
- What are the terms of the custody arrangement – how many days will each child stay with one parent as compared to the other parent?
The family court that decides the amount of child support generally isn’t concerned with the expenses each parent has – what they owe in mortgages, how big their cable bill is, whether they have the latest iPad, or how much they spend on food. The family court uses a formula that calculates the answers to the questions and then comes up with a set number of how much support should be paid on a monthly basis.
There are special cases that can alter the child support calculation. These cases include any special needs of the child if a child has a physical, emotional, or learning disability. Practical decisions need to be made about which parent’s insurance policy will include the children. Parents may be able to reach a separate agreement on child support such as extending the support payments to provide for a child’s college education. These separate agreements require court supervision to ensure the child is being protected. Parents can’t bargain away child support in return for a cash settlement.
What remedies are available if my child isn’t being taken care of?
As Mason said to Dixon, there are lines though. If your child is hungry, doesn’t have the books he/she needs for school, or looks like they haven’t slept in a year, the parent paying support does have the right to request a review.
While courts don’t want parents running to them every time there’s a dispute, if there’s a serious concern about the child’s welfare, the courts will set a hearing date so the spouse receiving the payments can be required to answer questions about how the child support funds are being used.
If a court finds a parent is spending the money for drugs or alcohol, or isn’t using the money for the child’s overall needs, the family court may intervene. The solutions the court will enter depend on the circumstances.
- A parent may need to seek a modification of both the child support order and the custody order if the child’s health is at risk.
- A court may require a formal accounting and then set a hearing for another review
- A court may appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the child so the child gets what is needed.
Again, court intervention requires a serious concern about the child’s well-being. That the child eats more spaghetti and donuts or isn’t getting Netflix will only annoy the judge and won’t result in any changes to the child support order.
At LaFevor & Slaughter, our Knoxville child support lawyers understand that the primary focus of every child support or custody order – is what is in the best interest of the child. Courts are impressed with parents who put their children first and will be upset with parents who use their children as a bargaining chip to resolve parental disputes. Parents do have the right to be concerned if the misuse of funds is affecting a child’s health in a serious and material way. To discuss the needs of you children after a divorce or separation, call our Knoxville family lawyers at (865) 637-6258 or fill out our contact form to schedule a consultation today.
As the Managing Attorney with LaFevor & Slaughter, Jason R. Hines handles new client consultations, strategic planning and implementation and represents clients in all the Firm’s practice areas.
As an attorney practicing law in Tennessee since 2009, Jason has represented clients from all walks of life in a wide range of cases in the State and Federal Courts of Tennessee. His practice areas include divorce, family law and immigration.