In Tennessee, both parents have the duty to support the children regardless which parent exercises a majority of the visitation. Visitation plays a major role in determining child support. The parents’ income will serve as the other determining factor in the ordering of child support in Tennessee. The more visitation one parent exercises, the higher the burden on the other parent to pay support. If the visitation is equal, both parents have an equal duty to provide support depending on their incomes.
Most parents mistakenly believe that they can agree that no child support will be paid in your case. The court must look at what is in the best interest of the child when making all orders, including child support. This means that even if the parents agree that there will be no child support paid, the court usually will reject that agreement. There are rare circumstances in which a court will not order child support. An example of a situation where a court may not order support is if the child spends an equal amount of time with each parent, and the parents each earn the same amount of money. Even in circumstances where the child spends the same amount of time with each parent, the court will often order the parent who earns more to pay support to the parent who does not earn as much.
Calculating Child Support
The court will typically order a monthly child support amount that is in accordance with the statutory guidelines listed in the Tennessee State Statute. Child support in Tennessee is calculated according to both parents’ gross monthly income and is determined by statutory guidelines according to that income and the amount of visitation exercised by each parent. If a parent is unemployed, but able to work, child support will still be ordered according to minimum wage earnings. Health insurance costs will be included in the child support calculations.
A court must find the child support amount ordered to be in the best interest of the child. If the child support amount is not in accordance with the Tennessee State Child Support Guidelines guideline, then there must be a specific reason listed in the as to why the standard guideline child support is not ordered and why the amount ordered instead is in the best interest of the child. If parents reach an agreement for child support that is lower than the statutory guideline amount, then the court is likely to reject that agreement unless it finds compelling reasons to warrant the parent to pay a different amount.
Most Tennessee courts require that an Income Withholding Order be signed by the judge in a divorce where child support is ordered unless there is an agreement between the parties. An Income Withholding Order (IWO) is an order that a court or Child Support Office sends to the non-custodial parent’s employer. It provides the employer specific information on the amount to withhold from the non-custodial parent’s income to meet the child support obligation. The child support obligation is withheld automatically by the employer and sent to the State Disbursement Unit for distribution to the custodial parent. It is the non-custodial parent’s responsibility to send the payment to the State Disbursement Unit until the Income Withholding Order is put into place by the employer.
All payments for child support will generally be paid through the “State Disbursement Unit" in Nashville; therefore, the parent will typically not pay child support directly to the other parent unless specified in the Separation Agreement. However, the agreement received via this website will reflect any agreed upon amount of child support if such exists, and asks the court to allow the non-custodial parent to be allowed to pay the custodial parent directly instead of paying child support by way of the State Disbursement Unit. Some courts prefer child support to always be paid via the State Disbursement Unit.
Failure to Pay Child Support
Tennessee courts do not look kindly at those parents who fail to pay court-ordered child support. If a parent fails to pay child support, that parent could be held in contempt of court, have their driver’s license suspended, have their IRS refunds seized, and/or can go to jail.
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