Facts: Mother and Father are the divorced parents of two minor children. Years after their divorce, the trial court modified aspects of the parenting plan but did not modify Father’s child-support obligation as he requested.
The trial court found that Father’s income for 2018 was expected to be $175,000 a year. Using this assumption, the trial court found there was not a “significant variance” permitting it to modify child support.
On Appeal: The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court.
Modification of child support is governed by Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-5-101(g)(1) and the Child Support Guidelines. Modification of an existing child-support order must be based on a “significant variance,” which the Guidelines define as at least a 15% change from the current child-support order and the proposed order.
Because child support is based on income, an award for future support is necessarily based on the most recent actual income.
The Court held the trial court erred in basing its determination on Father’s anticipated 2018 income rather than his actual 2017 income:
With regard to his 2018 income, Father testified that his base salary would be $130,000 and that, plus commissions, he could potentially earn $210,000. It appears that the trial court averaged Father’s base and potential salaries of $130,000 and $210,000, respectively, in reaching its determination that he would earn $175,000 in 2018. . . . The record reflects Father testified that his income for 2017 was not $175,000, but rather around $165,000. Accordingly, we conclude that the trial court erred in using Father’s anticipated income in its modification of his child-support obligation.
The trial court’s judgment was reversed, and the case was remanded for the trial court to calculate child support using Father’s 2017 income.