Facts: Mother and Father are the never-married parents of Child.
Mother lives in Tennessee. Father lives in Colorado.
In a child-custody dispute, the Tennessee trial court designated Mother as the primary residential parent and provided that Father could exercise parenting time with Child in Tennessee.
The trial court also established Father’s child-support obligation. Notably, the trial court found that while “fairness may require a downward deviation for Father’s travel expenses in the future,” no downward deviation is appropriate at this time.
On Appeal: The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court.
The purpose of the child-support guidelines is to ensure that children receive support reasonably consistent with their parents’ financial resources.
The child-support guidelines permit deviations from the presumptive amount of child support in limited circumstances. When deviating from the presumptive amount, primary consideration must be given to the best interest of the child.
One of the circumstances in which a deviation may occur is “if parenting time-related travel expenses are substantial due to the distance between the parents.” In such circumstances, the court may order the allocation of travel expenses by deviation, taking into consideration the circumstances of the parties as well as which parent moved and the reason the move was made.
The Court declined to reverse the trial court’s decision to disallow a downward deviation at this time:
In this case, the trial court acknowledged that there may be substantial travel expenses related to the exercise of parenting time on the part of the Father. However, the court determined that a downward deviation was not appropriate at the time based upon the relevant financial situation, employment obligation, and ease of travel or lack thereof for both parties. Significantly, the court properly took into consideration Father’s voluntary decision to live in Colorado. The trial court had the opportunity to hear and see the witnesses testify and, therefore, was in the best position to judge their credibility. Accordingly, we decline to second-guess the trial court’s determinations without sufficient proof. We find no abuse of the court’s discretion in its ruling on this issue.
Thus, the trial court’s refusal to reduce Father’s child-support obligation to account for his travel expenses was affirmed.
Information provided by K.O. Herston: Knoxville, Tennessee Divorce and Family-Law Attorney.