Child support is one parent’s responsibility to compensate the other parent for the support and maintenance of their child, pursuant to a court order. In Tennessee, back child support, also known as arrearages, are considered child support that, if left unpaid, accrue interest at the rate of 12 percent. Arrearages can add up fast and, when interest is added to the total, can be a critical barrier to payment. However, some may be unaware of a 2015 law that can relieve the pressure on those who are delinquent on their child support obligations.
In July 2015, a new child support law was enacted in Tennessee. Under this legislation, some parents under a child support order may voluntarily compromise and settle back child support arrearages (including both principal and interest) if specific requirements are met. These include:
- Child support payments must have been paid on time and in full for at least 12 consecutive months before the settlement.
- The settlement agreement must be signed and in writing.
- A verbal agreement is inadequate and will not be enforceable.
- The court needs to find that the settlement is in the child’s best interests, based on the payor’s ability to pay.
Compromise and settlement allow the parent who is owed the money to accept less than what is legally owed by the paying parent. In some cases, it may be beneficial to take less than what is owed to obtain some money rather than none.
Some critical things to consider: The settlement will only apply to child support arrears owed to the primary residential parent, not what might be due to the state of Tennessee or some other state. Back child support may only be forgiven once, and any arrearages incurred after the settlement agreement will not be eligible for dismissal.
In addition to providing for the compromise and settlement of back child support, the new law also amended property division law in the state by changing how certain premarital employment benefits and pension plans are treated in a Tennessee divorce. In addition, for firefighters, educators, law enforcement officers, and other government personnel, other new legislation changed how government pensions are divided in a Tennessee divorce.
How is child support decided in Knoxville?
Every Tennessee divorce action, lawsuit to determine paternity, annulment case, separate maintenance issue, and legal separation proceeding involving a minor child will raise the question of parental child support responsibilities. Under Tennessee law, parents are “equally and jointly charged with [their minor child’s] care, nurture, welfare, education and support.” However, courts will typically order one parent to pay child support to the other. It is important to note that child support is for the child’s benefit and should never be used as retribution or to punish either parent.
In Tennessee, child support is administered by the Department of Human Services. Any custodial parent, non-custodial parent, or caretaker of a child needing services can apply for support, regardless of their income. If the requester receives Families First/TANF benefits, the Department of Human Services will routinely refer the case to the local child support office. If they do not receive state benefits, a party can apply for child support services by completing an online or paper application.
How is child support calculated in Knoxville?
Ordering a Tennessee parent to pay child support involves the application of the Tennessee Child Support Guidelines. However, applying Tennessee child support law to the unique facts and circumstances of a family’s case is often a complex process.
Before child support calculations can be made, both parents must divulge their income from all sources. The amount of child support paid is based upon an Incomes Shares Worksheet that uses the combined adjusted gross income of the parents and the number of children for whom the order is being established or modified. There are numerous options for automatically calculating child support, including an online calculator, an Excel worksheet, and an iOS application that can be downloaded on an iPhone or iPad.
Using the data obtained from the child support worksheets, attorneys and judges will interpret Tennessee child support law and guidelines to determine how much a parent should pay to support and maintain each child. Two parties are named in a child support order: the Primary Residential Parent (PRP), who collects child support, and the Alternate Residential Parent (ARP), who pays child support.
These guidelines are applied to all child support cases where a new or modified order results from a court hearing, and no change to any child support order will be made automatically. However, both parents have a right to request a review and potential modification of an existing child support order. Current income information for both parties will be reviewed to determine if an adjustment is appropriate based on the Tennessee Child Support Guidelines.
According to state law, parents must continue to pay child support for each child they are responsible for a child who has reached 18 years of age if the child remains in high school. The duty of support continues until the child graduates from high school or the class of which the child is a member when they reach the age of 18 graduates, whichever happens first. In exceptional circumstances, child support could be extended into adulthood because of a child’s severe mental or physical disability. Support could be paid indefinitely when it is ordered for an adult child due to a handicap or disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Are you buried in back child support payments and looking for help? The child support attorneys at LaFevor & Slaughter are dedicated to helping families in difficult circumstances reach amicable solutions, and we want to help you, too. We represent the best interests of children and families and understand how emotional these issues can be. For competent legal representation in matters involving back child support, call us in Knoxville at (865) 637-6258, or complete our contact form to schedule a case evaluation 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.