Facts: When Mother and Father divorced, Mother was designated the primary residential parent of Child. Mother was allocated 280 days of parenting time while Father received 85 days. Father was ordered to pay child support.
Years later, Mother petitioned to modify Father’s child support based on several reasons, including a change in both parents’ income and healthcare and work-related childcare costs. Most of the changes were undisputed.
The evidence at trial indicated Child did not want to spend time with Father. By the time of trial, Father had not exercised any parenting time for nearly two years.
The trial court ruled that if Mother had petitioned to modify the parenting plan, then it would have included 365 days of parenting time for Mother and zero days for Father in the new child support calculation. Because Mother had not asked to modify the parenting plan, the trial court’s updated child support worksheet kept Father’s parenting time as previously ordered, i.e., 85 days.
On Appeal: The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court.
The Tennessee Child Support Guidelines state that the child support worksheet should reflect “the number of days each child spends with each parent and/or non-parent caretaker.” The Guidelines contemplate that the number of “days” spent with each parent, as reflected on the worksheet, will be the actual number of days spent in the care of each parent, as opposed to the number of days established under the permanent parenting plan.
After reviewing the record, the Court reasoned:
The undisputed testimony indicates that Mother cares for the child 365 days yearly and that the child and Father have not visited since September 2010. Therefore, we conclude that the trial court erred in its calculation of child support by failing to consider the actual number of days each parent spent with the child.
Child support shall be calculated based upon the actual number of annual days Mother and Father exercise parenting time—365 days for Mother and zero days for Father—rather than the number of days contemplated in the permanent parenting plan.
Accordingly, the trial court’s judgment was reversed and the case remanded for recalculation of Father’s child support obligation.
Information provided by K.O. Herston: Knoxville, Tennessee Divorce, Matrimonial and Family Law Attorney.