Child Support

In arriving at a fair amount of child support, you should (and in the event of a contested trial, the court will) consider the needs of the children and the financial assets, earnings, and needs of each parent. In Tennessee, we use the Child Support Guidelines. Click here for a full copy of the Guidelines and the Tennessee Child Support (Calculator).

Child Support is set on the basis of a stupefying long complex and confusing set of regulations. However the main variables are the parent’s income and the time parents spend with the children. The income ratio is the biggest factor. Days with the children is the next most important. Unlike the previous guidelines items such as medical expenses, insurance, educational cost, other children are figured into the formula. As you might guess if you try to make everything part of one big calculation the rules for that calculation are going to be huge (over sixty pages). It is included in the Child Support Guidelines Appendix. Clearly you will need a computer to figure this out. The state provides a Automated Web-Style Calculator at as well as, downloadable Child Support Worksheets in Excel. 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.

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 mental or physical disability, be sure to let me know, as it may be possible to have support continue after this child turns eighteen. If the children’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. Child support, and sometimes alimony, can be assigned out of the paycheck of the person who is paying it. 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.

As with alimony, child support must be reasonable. Enough can be too much. If the custodial parent is awarded enough child support, it may be too much for the noncustodial parent to be able to pay. If this happens, the burden becomes too heavy; and if the ties to the children and to the community are too weak, then the noncustodial parent will leave. Once a noncustodial parent has left the state, it becomes very difficult to enforce child support rulings.

In a Memphis courtroom, a woman was divorcing her biker husband whom she had concluded was worthless—even on his best day. As the lawyer was going over the terms of the settlement in court, he got to child support and said, “Fifty dollars per month.”

The judge interrupted, “Fifty dollars is not much money. Wouldn’t one hundred dollars a month be more reasonable? I can award that if you want me to.”

The woman responded, “I wish you wouldn’t. I’m not going to get it anyway, and it only hurts half as much to not get fifty dollars a month as it would not to get one hundred a month.”

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