Calculation of Retroactive Child Support Reversed in Franklin, Tennessee: White v. Miller

August 24, 2023 K.O. Herston 0 Comments

Facts: Mother and Father are the never-married parents of Child.

Father sent Mother $37 in child support in the first five months of Child’s life, at which point Mother petitioned to establish parentage and set child support.

Father immediately began paying child support of $300 every other week.

At mediation five months later, Father began paying $1400 per month in child support.

The trial court found Father to be willfully underemployed and imputed income to him of $60,000 per year, resulting in a monthly child-support obligation of $1423. This obligation was made retroactive to cover the first five months of Child’s life, during which Father paid child support of only $37, resulting in an arrearage of $7115. Notably, the correct obligation of $1423 per month was not applied to the months when Father paid $1400 per month.

Mother appealed.

On Appeal: The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court.

Tennessee courts must apply the child-support guidelines from the child’s birth unless the court finds the application of the guidelines would be unjust or if there’s a basis for deviating from the guidelines. If the trial court deviates from the guidelines when determining a parent’s retroactive child-support obligation, it must consider these factors:  

  • the extent to which the father did not know of the child’s existence, birth, location, or the possibility of parentage,
  • the extent to which the mother intentionally failed or refused to tell the father about the child’s existence, birth, location, or the father’s possible parentage, and
  • the mother’s attempts, if any, to tell the father about her pregnancy, the child’s existence or location, or the father’s possible parentage.

Finding these factors inapplicable because Mother promptly informed Father and sought to engage him in parenting Child, the Court found no basis for the trial court to deviate from the child-support guidelines going back to Child’s birth:

Father began paying child support in March 2019 at an amount of $300 every two weeks. He continued at this rate until he increased his amount of payment to $1400 in August 2019. The trial court provided for no retroactive child support once Father began making regular payments. Assessed against the trial court’s conclusion as to the appropriate amount of child support dating to the child’s birth, which was set at $1423, the payments during these time periods deviate from the statutory and guideline presumptions with regard to retroactive support. For the March 2019 to August 2019 time period in which Father paid approximately $600 a month, Father’s payments were deficient by approximately $823 per month. After August 2019, when Father’s payments increased to $1400, they were, nevertheless, deficient by $23 per month. In deviating from the presumptions established by statute and the guidelines, the trial court did not adhere to the required procedures. The trial court did not provide any indication of what equities might underlie such deviation, nor does the record provide support for the trial court’s deviation from the statutory and guideline presumptions. Consequently, we conclude that the trial court erred in its retroactive support calculation. On remand, the trial court should determine the total amount of the deficiency in retroactive support and modify the retroactive support award accordingly.

The Court reversed the trial court’s calculation of retroactive child support and remanded the case back to the trial court for recalculation.

Source: White v. Miller (Tennessee Court of Appeals, Middle Section, July 31, 2023).

If you found this helpful, please share it using the buttons below.

Calculation of Retroactive Child Support Reversed in Franklin, Tennessee: White v. Miller was last modified: August 22nd, 2023 by K.O. Herston

Leave a Comment