Facts: Mother and Father divorced in Chattanooga.
Mother was designated the primary residential parent for Child. Husband was ordered to pay child support.
Many issues were disputed and appealed. The only one I find of interest concerns the allocation of the federal tax exemption for Child.
Regarding the federal tax exemption, the trial court ordered that the exemption be alternated between the parties each year.
On Appeal: The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court.
Mother argued the Child Support Guidelines mandate that she receive the federal tax exemption.
Mother relied on § 1240-2-4-.03(6)(b) of the Child Support Guidelines, which says the child support schedule is based on the assumption that the “alternate residential parent will file as a single wage earner claiming one withholding allowance, and the primary residential parent claims the tax exemptions for the child.”
After reviewing the record, the Court concluded:
The allocation of exemptions for minor children is discretionary and should rest on the facts of the particular case. It is not mandated Wife be awarded the exemption. Our courts have not held this “rule” is obligatory on the trial courts. The regulations simply describe the methodology used to compute spouses’ respective net incomes, and it is merely a mathematical assumption with no bearing on the trial court’s discretion to award the tax exemptions. Thus, the court was not required to allocate the tax exemption solely to Wife after hearing the entirety of the evidence, including testimony as to income, upon which it determined child support. The trial court did not abuse its discretion in alternating the allocation of the federal tax exemption.
Accordingly, the trial court’s ruling was affirmed.
K.O.’s Comment: There is nothing new about this holding. I have covered it again and again. Despite this, I sometimes see child support magistrates and lawyers who believe exactly as Mother did here, i.e., that the primary residential parent is automatically entitled to the tax exemption because the child support schedule is based on that assumption. I’m covering this particular issue again in an effort to reduce the number of incredulous looks I get from opposing counsel when I argue the tax exemption can and should be allocated to the obligor.
Information provided by K.O. Herston: Knoxville, Tennessee Divorce and Family Law Attorney.