Common Myths about Child Support in Tennessee

Many of the issues involving child support are fairly well established. Courts will generally focus on the income and assets of the parents much more than their individual expenses. The needs of the child for a quality home, food on the table, and clothes on their back come first. Parents bring their children into the world. They have an obligation to provide for them.

There are many myths about child support than our experienced Knoxville child support lawyers can answer and explain. Some of the questions and myths include the following, according to the creators of

Myth: If parents have joint physical custody, then there’s no need to pay child support.

This is false. In Tennessee, both parents can have joint physical and legal custody. This means the child will stay with each parent a fair portion of the year and each parent will have input as to how the child is raised. Still, in most cases, joint custody means that a child will spend the bulk of time with one parent over the time spent with the other parent – as set forth in a parenting plan. Homes cost money. The care and feeding of a child costs money. Child support orders will consider the time the child spends with each parent and the income of each parent. Even if a child spends ½ the year with one parent and ½ with the other parent, a child support order may be required if one parent earns significantly more than the other parent.

Myth: Child support payment duties end as soon as the child reaches the age of 18.

The duty to pay child support may continue beyond 18 if there is an agreement by the parents to extend the time – for example to pay for college for a child. Even if there is no agreement, there may be a duty to pay for child support beyond 18 if the child is still in high school or the child has special needs.

Myth: Once a child support order is entered it can never be changed.

This is false. Courts are only concerned in what is best for the child. If a parent obtains a better-paying job, then it is only just that a child should benefit, in part, from the parent’s financial success. In the same way, if a parent loses a job, then the parent who is out of work can request that the child support be reduced – provided the parent aggressively looks for new work. There must be proof that the parent with the support obligation was indeed fired or lost his/her job due to unforeseeable circumstances. A child support order will not be reduced if a parent just quits their job.

Myth: Child support payments are tax deductible.

Child support payments are not tax deductible. Generally, the custodial parent, for purpose of claiming the child as a dependent, is the parent with whom the child lived for the longer period of time during the year.

However, there is a child tax credit you can claim if you list your children as dependents on your taxes. You can learn more about how that child credit works in our piece on the effects of the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act (TCJA).

Myth: Parents need to account for how child support is spent.

Generally, the answer is no. The child support order should consider the income and assets of each parent. Courts will examine where the child is living and whether the child has any unique needs. Once the child support order is entered, there is no duty to provide an accounting of how the support funds are being spent. However, if a parent has reason to believe the child is not being provided for – for example, he/she doesn’t have any new clothes or looks malnourished – the parent paying child support may be able to request a review.

In addition, parents generally cannot bargain away a child’s support agreement. Both parents have the duty to support their children.

Child support payments are independent of child custody and visitation orders. A parent cannot stop paying child support just because the other parent stops visitation arrangements. The remedy is to request a review of the visitation order/parenting plan. The remedy is not to stop paying child support.

At the Law Offices of LaFevor & Slaughter, our Knoxville child support lawyers work to get the best child support award for you and your children. We understand how expensive it is to raise a child so that he/she can get the best education possible, develop friendships, and connect with family. For help obtaining the best child support order possible, call our family lawyers at 865.272.4454 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment. We file and defend child support claims in Knoxville and across Tennessee.