Regardless of how custody is split between a couple following a divorce or separation, both parents have a legal obligation to financially support their child until they reach the age of 18 and/or become emancipated under Tennessee state law. However, the exact amount of support a particular parent may owe can vary substantially from case to case.
In the interest of standardizing the process of calculating child support in Chattanooga and throughout Tennessee, the state Department of Human Services has established child support guidelines that all courts must follow when determining support obligations. A knowledgeable child support attorney could provide crucial clarification about how these guidelines work and what circumstances might prompt a court to deviate from the amount recommended by them.
The two main factors that go into calculating the amount of child support a non-custodial parent in Chattanooga will be expected to provide are the number of children they are supporting and their adjusted gross monthly income. The latter figure can be summarized as all sources of income a person has added together, less deductions for specific expenses outlined in the child support guidelines.
In the context of child support calculations, gross income includes all of the following payments an individual receives on a monthly basis:
If a parent is unemployed or currently not working, any income they derive from workers’ compensation benefits, unemployment benefits, or Social Security programs would be considered income for this purpose. Notably, though, child support payments for children from other relationships do not count as gross income, nor do benefits from certain public assistance programs, including SSI and food stamps.
The combined adjusted gross monthly incomes of both parents determine the basic support obligation—based on the schedule established in the guidelines—shared by both parents. This obligation is generally then divided proportionately based on the percentage of total adjusted gross income each individual parent accounts for, and sometimes based on how the parents share custody rights.
Section 1240-2-4-.07 of the Tennessee Child Support Guidelines establishes that the basic support obligation calculated in accordance with the guidelines is “rebuttable,” meaning that it is possible to deviate from that amount if it would best serve the interests of the child. While the guidelines do not lay out specific reasons why deviations may be appropriate, they are generally justified based on special expenses that the guidelines do not already take into consideration.
For example, if a child has special medical and/or educational needs, associated expenses might be factored into the amount of child support deemed appropriate for the child’s parents to provide. Likewise, if a child’s parents live far away from each other, reasonable travel expenses should be considered when calculating child support in Chattanooga.
Determining your child support obligation can be a straightforward process, but it is much more often a complex and time-consuming endeavor with lots of room for subjective interpretation. In light of that, having help from seasoned legal counsel can be crucial to ensuring your support obligations serve your child’s interests without being unfairly burdensome on you.
Calculating child support in Chattanooga could be much easier and more productive with a skilled child support attorney’s guidance. Call today to schedule your consultation.