TennesseeChild Support Laws
Tennessee Child Support Guide :: Table of Contents
Child support is an ongoing payment by a non-custodial parent to assist with the financial support of their children. Child support payments are often determined during the process of dissolution of a marriage through divorce, though the only requirements for requesting child support payments are establishment of paternity and maternity.
Child support is handled on a state level, and Tennessee has a set of specific child support guidelines. On this page you can learn about how child support is calculated in Tennessee, how custody split and extraordinary costs affect child support payments, and more.
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Tennessee uses the "income share" method for calculating child support payments, which is designed to ensure that both the custodial and non-custodial parents contribute to their child's upkeep.
Tennessee's child support formula directly accounts for parents who share custody of a child, and support payment amounts are connected to the custody split. Other special situations accounted for under Tennessee's child support law include extraordinary medical costs and college costs. These costs may be additions to the basic Tennessee child support order.
What Factors are Considered in Calculating Child Support?The order or decree of the court may provide that the payments for the support of such child or children shall be paid either to the clerk of the court or directly to the spouse, or other person awarded the custody of the child or children; provided, however, that:
- The court shall order that all child support payments based upon an income assignment issued by the clerk be paid to the clerk of the court, with exception
- for child support cases that are subject to the provisions for central collection and disbursement
- In Title IV-D child support cases where payment of child support is to be made by income assignment, or otherwise, and in all cases where payments made by income assignment are based upon support orders entered on or after January 1, 1994, that are not Title IV-D support cases, but must be made to the central collection and disbursement unit as provided, and, except as may otherwise be allowed, the court can only order that the support payments be made to the central collection and disbursement unit.
If the following conditions are met, then the obligor can seek termination of the order of support and may also request that the department assist in seeking termination of the order:
- The department’s records demonstrate that the child for whom an order of support in a Title IV-D child support case has been entered has reached 18 years of age and has graduated from high school, or that the class of which the child is a member when the child reached 18 years of age has graduated from high school, the obligor has otherwise provided the department with written documentation of such facts, or the obligor has provided the department with written documentation that a child for whom the obligor is required to pay support has died or has married
- No other special circumstances exist, including, but not limited to, the circumstances provided for in subsection (k) regarding disabled children, that require the obligation to continue
- The obligor does not owe arrearages to the obligee parent, any guardian or custodian of the child, the department of human services, any other agency of the state of Tennessee, or any other Title IV-D agency of any state
- The costs of court have been paid
- There are no other children for whom the obligor is required to pay child support
When an order provides for the support of 2 or more children in a case that is subject to enforcement under Title IV-D, and at least 1 child is a public charge, based upon receipt of temporary assistance pursuant to title 71, chapter 3, part 1, TennCare-medicaid, or foster care or other custodial services from the state of Tennessee, the child support order shall be prorated by the department for purposes of distribution of the child support to the appropriate person or agency providing care or support for the child, without the need for modification of the child support order by the court.
Child support can be arranged out of court by a mutual support agreement between the parents, or can be decided in Tennessee family court through a child support order. In Tennessee, a number of factors are taken into account when determining the amount of child support to be paid in court. Here is an explanation of the two most common methods used to calculate basic child support amounts.
Income Share Method
Under the income share model, the court uses economic tables to estimate the total monthly cost of raising the children. The non-custodial parent pays a percentage of the calculated cost that is based on their proportional share of both parents' combined income.
Example: The non-custodial parent of one child has an income of $2,000 per month, and the custodial parent has an income of $1,000 per month. The court estimates that the cost of raising one child is $1,000 a month. The non-custodial parent's income is 66.6% of the parent's total combined income. Therefore, the non-custodial parent pays $666 per month in child support, or 66.6% of the total child support obligation.
Percentage Of Income Method
This method of calculating child support is simple - a set percentage of the non-custodial parent's income is paid monthly to the custodial parent to cover basic child support expenses. The percentage paid may stay the same, or vary if the non-custodial parent's income changes.
Example: The non-custodial parent of one child has an income of $2,000 per month. The court orders a flat percentage of 25% of the non-custodial parent's income to be paid in child support to the custodial parent. Therefore, the non-custodial parent pays $500 per month in child support. If the non-custodial parent's monthly income changes, the dollar amount they pay in child support will change as well.
Tennessee Child Support FAQ
- How does having shared custody of the child affect child support in Tennessee?
- How are extraordinary medical costs treated by child support in Tennessee?
- How are child care costs treated by child support in Tennessee?
- Does child support cover college education expenses in Tennessee?
- How is child support enforced in Tennessee?
- What are child support arrears?
- How are child support payments taxed in Tennessee?
How does having shared custody of the child affect child support in Tennessee?
All states have a method of modifying the amount of child support owed in cases where the custody agreement provides for joint or shared custody of a child between both parents.
Tennessee law accounts for shared custody of a child directly in the child support formula used to calculate payment amounts. This means that, in cases where custody is shared, the amount of child support paid by the paying parent will be reduced according to the amount of time they have custody of the child.
How are extraordinary medical costs treated by child support in Tennessee?
Tennessee has specialized guidelines for the sharing of a child's extraordinary medical care costs that are separate from, and in addition to, basic child support payments. Extraordinary medical costs are generally costs generated by things such as illness, hospital visits, or costly procedures such as getting braces.
How are child care costs treated by child support in Tennessee?
Unlike most states, Tennessee has no special provisions for child care costs in their child support guidelines. The costs of child care and lumped in to other costs of providing for the child when child support calculations are being made.
Does child support cover college education expenses in Tennessee?
Tennessee state law does allow courts to order the non-custodial parent to contribute to their child's college education upon graduating high school. Whether post-secondary education support is ordered, and the amount that may be ordered, varies depending on the situation.
How is child support enforced in Tennessee?
In the state of Tennessee, child support is enforced by the state child support agency. The state agency handles the location of non-custodial parents, enforcement of support orders, and the handling of unpaid child support arrears.
What are child support arrears?
Child support arrears are the amount of child support that is delinquent, or unpaid, by the noncustodial parent to the custodial parent. Child support arrears may be collected by the state through wage garnishment, bank levy. withholding of Tennessee welfare benefits, or other collection methods.
How are child support payments taxed in Tennessee?
Under IRS guidelines, the recepient of child support does not need to pay federal tax on child support payments, and the payer of child support cannot deduct their child support payments. This differs from the federal taxation of alimony payments, which are treated as taxable income by the receiver and are deductible by the payor. Tennessee tax law may vary on tax treatment of child support.