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What should I know about child support in Tennessee?

Children are expensive. The United States Department of Agriculture has tracked the average cost to raise a child since 1960. The agency found that in 2015 the average middle-class parents spent almost $13,000 every year per child. If inflation is factored in, the average family will spend an estimated $284,570 to raise a child to the age of 17 on food, shelter, and necessities alone. This does not include other expenses like the cost of higher-level education like a college degree.

When it comes to divorce, the parent’s romantic relationship ends but their commitment to raising their children does not; this includes the financial commitment. Expenses that come with child rearing include the basics like housing, food, transportation, health care, childcare, and education but also costs to cover clothing, extracurricular activities, and entertainment — costs that are generally in addition to the estimates provided by the USDA above.

State law helps to ensure parents continue to meet the financial needs of their children after divorce.

How do Tennessee laws guide child support payments?

The state provides a worksheet to help guide child support payment determinations. This worksheet requires the following information to come up with a child support payment amount:

  • Adjusted gross income (AGI). This is the net income of the parents as used by the court for child support calculations after certain adjustments. These adjustments include the addition of social security benefits paid to the child, deduction of self-employment taxes, and deduction of credits like support of other children.
  • Basic child support obligation (BCSO). This amount is the base amount of support used in calculations after the court takes the AGI of both parents into consideration.
  • Additional expenses. Examples include health insurance and childcare.

The law also provides the court the discretion to deviate from the calculation when doing so is in the best interest of the child.

There are options when it comes to scheduling child support payments. The law notes that the paying parent may make payments on a weekly, bi-weekly, semi-monthly, or monthly basis.

Is there anything else I should know?

Parents are wise to keep in mind that this area of law is evolving. In fact, it changed as recently as March of 2022. At that time, the state passed a law that expands the factors the court uses for the best interest of the child standard. The court uses this legal standard to review child custody matters. The change resulted in the addition of a new factor for the court to take into consideration when making a child custody determination: whether a parent has failed to court-ordered child support for three years or longer.

It is also important to note that parents do not need to go through this process alone. These matters are complex, effected by changing law, and have an impact well into the future. As such, it is a good idea to seek legal counsel to help guide you through the process and better ensure you find a resolution that is right for your family.

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