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How Much Child Support Will I Pay in Tennessee?

Child support arrangements play a major role in many divorce cases, having the potential to significantly impact the financial wellbeing of both the payor and the recipient. If you find yourself being asked to pay for child support, having an idea of the total amount you'll be saddled with is invaluable. Today, we're looking at how much you may be able to expect to pay in your child support case.

To schedule a consultation with our team or learn more about our child support counsel, contact us online or via phone at (731) 256-0023.

Child Support Guidelines in TN

Child support is designed to enable a child to maintain a certain baseline quality of life. In situations where the parents are not married, that may mean receiving resources up to a point determined by the state. In situations where child support is awarded as a result of a divorce, that may mean enabling a child to maintain the same quality of life they enjoyed while their parents were married. In Tennessee, child support payments are calculated by tallying the adjusted gross income of both parents.

Adjusted gross income is calculated by taking the parent's monthly gross income, and:

  • Adding any federal benefits they receive for having a child;
  • Subtracting self-employment taxes paid;
  • Subtracting any in-home credit they receive for having an in-home child; and
  • Subtracting in-home credit they receive for having a no-home-child.

The court then combines the adjusted gross income (AGI) of the parents, while keeping track of what percentage share of the AGI each parent has.

Once the AGI of both parents is tallied, the court calculates the Basic Child Support Obligation (BCOS) the noncustodial parent owes to the primary parent (the parent the child spends more time living with). The total amount of custody the primary parent has plays into this calculation - in almost equal joint custody arrangements, for example, the noncustodial parent may need to pay for relatively little child support, whereas in situations where the primary parent has custody a majority of the year, the noncustodial parent may have a more substantial child support obligation.

In addition to the BCSO, other additional expenses may be factored into the child support order. These additional expenses include:

  • The portion of the child's health insurance premium that each parent is paying;
  • Any recurring uninsured medical expenses the parents can expect the child to incur;
  • Any work-related childcare the parents need to provide to ensure the child has a good quality of life.

2020 Changes to Child Support in Tennessee

In 2020, Tennessee released updates to its child support guidelines. Some of the most notable changes to child support in Tennessee include:

  • The introduction of the Self Support Reserve (SSR). The SSR is designed to help low-income child support payors (obligors) maintain a good quality of life, while still helping them pay for child support. If an obligor falls below a certain income level, only their AGI is used to calculate their BCSO. This is designed to make child support payments more equitable for low-income obligors by ensuring that a higher-paid child support recipient's AGI doesn't inflate the amount paid by the obligor to a degree they cannot sustainably afford to pay for child support and have a decent quality of life.
  • Increases to the minimum for child support. Now, the minimum child support order in Tennessee is at least $100.00 a month. If VA or SSA benefits payments will exceed a child's needs, their caretaker must hold that excess in reserve and apply it to the child's benefit in some way.
  • Parenting days are now 12 hours, not 24. According to the new guidelines, if a child spends 12 or more consecutive hours of their day with a parent, that now counts as a "day" of custody, presumably to aid parents in situations where an individual would spend up to 23 hours with a child but still declare it didn't count as custody time.
  • "Voluntary" unemployment or underemployment is now qualified as "voluntary" under or unemployment. Additionally, courts can now impute significantly more income from an individual who is "willfully" under or unemployed in an effort to obtain a lower child support obligation - courts can now claim up to $43,761 in imputed income from males, and up to $35, 936 in imputed income from females, figures calculated from the median gross income for workers of both sexes.

The number of factors that play into child support can make it difficult to know what path you should take moving forward in your child support case. To schedule a consultation with our team and speak with an attorney who can help you find the best path forward in your child support dispute, contact us online or via phone at (731) 256-0023.