Tennessee’s Child Support Guidelines, They Are A-Changin’

The Tennessee Child Support Guidelines are being updated. Click here to review a redlined copy of the proposed changes. Here are the highlights:

Gross income. The definition of “gross income” will include the values of gifts or inheritances that can produce income, such as real estate. It also includes the actual income earned by an incarcerated parent instead of the current practice of imputing income.

Tennessee Child Support GuidelinesImputed income. Income will be imputed to a parent who fails to participate in or fails to supply adequate financial information in a child-support proceeding. To determine the amount of income to impute, Tennessee courts must consider the parent’s assets, residence, employment and earnings history, job skills, education, literacy, age, health, criminal record, efforts to find employment, the local job market, and other relevant factors. The default amount of imputed income will be $43,761 for men and $35,936 for women.

Voluntary under/unemployment. The Guidelines will no longer treat an incarcerated parent as voluntarily underemployed or unemployed.

Partial parenting days. The proposed changes attempt to clarify under what circumstances parenting time of less than 12 hours can be counted toward a “day.” Under the proposal, “routinely incurred” parenting time of less than 12 hours may now be combined to constitute a day. 6 to 11 hours will count as a half day, while 3 to 5 hours will count as a quarter-day. How does one count a period between 5-6 hours?

Reasonable cost of insurance. The cost of insurance for the parent responsible for providing it for the child will be considered “reasonable” if it does not exceed 5% of the parent’s gross income. This may have been made necessary by the recent rewriting of Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-5-101(h)(1).

Stepparent providing insurance. When a stepparent insures the child, the cost will be credited on the child-support worksheet to the parent married to the stepparent.

Retroactive child support. Retroactive child support shall not be awarded for over five years from the date the action for support is filed unless the court determines that a different award is in the interest of justice. This brings the Guidelines into compliance with Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-2-311(a)(11).

No changes. After reviewing the most current economic data on the cost of raising children, current expenditures and price data, and changes in Tennessee incomes, the Department concluded the evidence “does not overwhelmingly indicate that substantial changes to the CS Schedule are necessary.” There will be no change to the statutory cap, i.e., $2100 for one child, $3200 for two children, etc., to account for inflation. High-income parents will continue to be favored by the Department.

Keep in mind these are proposed changes at this point. The Tennessee Department of Human Services is soliciting your feedback. Let them know what you think by completing this survey by the end of the week, i.e., August 10. Note: I started to submit comments through the survey but found it cumbersome. You have to click through each proposed change (and there are many) instead of simply being able to submit a comment. I didn’t have that much time so I gave up.

Source: Proposed Revisions to Tennessee Child Support Guidelines (Tennessee Department of Human Services, July 16, 2018).

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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.

3 thoughts on “Tennessee’s Child Support Guidelines, They Are A-Changin’

  1. Thank you KO. Very interesting and informative as always. Do you post to linkin? If not would you consider giving me approval to post on my account your articles?

  2. Thanks for the update, K.O., as well as the link for the survey. I took your advice and didn’t try to comment on every single item, and instead only commented on a few individual items and left most of my thoughts at the end. Wish they would go back to a flat percentage of the obligor’s gross income!

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