Tennessee Child Support Downward Deviation Based On Additional Parenting Time: Morgan v. Morgan

Facts: The parties divorced after a 4-1/2 year marriage. After a trial, the trial court designated Mother as the primary residential parent. Father was awarded parenting time during the school year on alternating weekends and every weeknight from the time of Child’s school dismissal until 6:00 or 7:00 PM, depending on the day and Father’s work schedule. The trial court deviated downward from the Child Support Guidelines amount “to account for the extra time Father will have [Child] after school, which time and the resulting expenses are not taken into account by the Guidelines.” Mother appealed.

On Appeal: The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court.

Mother argued the trial court erred in deviating from the Child Support Guidelines by allowing Father a downward departure of $30 per month for expenses he will incur in parenting Child after school. As noted in greater detail in my comments below, this was one issue where the Court noted Mother’s appellate brief “provides no intelligible discussion” of this legal issue. Nonetheless, after reviewing the record and the applicable law, the Court ruled as follows:

The court in the present case in fact noted that the time Father spends with the child after school does not qualify as a “day” of parenting time but that it nevertheless saves the separated family the expense of child care and costs Father money. . . . Accordingly, we find no abuse of discretion by the trial court in allowing Father a small deviation based on his time spent with [Child] after school.

Accordingly, additional parenting time that does not qualify as a “day” under the Child Support Guidelines can be the basis for a downward deviation in one’s child support obligation.

K.O.’s Comment: The opinion contains several cringe-worthy comments directed at Mother’s counsel, such as:

Mother’s brief on appeal — rather than concentrating on the evidence presented at trial and demonstrating how the trial court’s factual findings are wrong or how the trial court reached an erroneous conclusion of law — consists of approximately 39 pages of accusations against Father and three pages of general law applicable to all divorce actions. . . .

Her arguments bear no correlation to the issues. . . .

Mother’s brief only sporadically mentions the evidence at trial and certainly does not provide a helpful understanding of the evidence presented there. . . .

Mother fails to address the first issue other than in her statement of the issues and occasional statements interspersed at random points throughout her brief. She fails completely to cite any legal authority for the proposition that the court erred in naming Father as primary residential parent for the summer. . . .

Mother repeats her pattern on the second issue of leaving it up to us to find reasons and authority for reversing the trial court. . . .

Father, again, has come to the rescue by at least providing us with the standards by which we review a trial court’s allocation of parenting time. . . .

She provides no intelligible discussion in her initial brief. . . .

Mother does not discuss this issue intelligibly in her initial brief. . . .

Ouch.

Morgan v. Morgan (Tennessee Court of Appeals, Eastern Section, May 30, 2012).

Information provided by K.O. Herston: Knoxville, Tennessee Matrimonial, Divorce and Family Law Attorney.

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K.O. Herston is a family-law attorney in Knoxville, Tennessee whose practice is devoted exclusively to family law, including divorce, child custody, child support, alimony, prenuptial agreements, and other aspects of family law.

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