Modifying Child Support Payments in Chattanooga

After a divorce between individuals who share at least one child, one parent may be obligated by law to make regular child support payments to the other to take care of the child’s needs. A child support contract is often created at the time of the divorce proceedings but can be revisited down the line. The needs of both parents and their child can be re-evaluated over time and the agreement can be modified accordingly.

If you want to alter your child support agreement, a skilled child support lawyer could help. With a dedicated legal advocate, you could revisit the terms of your contract and settle on modifications that benefit both parties. Reach out to learn about the nuances of modifying child support payments in Chattanooga.

When to Modify a Child Support Contract

Every three years, the state will alert individuals involved in child support contracts and give them the right to have their case reviewed. This review is not automated, but it is an opportunity for the parties to determine if their contract is still relevant to their current financial situations.

If there has been a material change in circumstance for either of the parents, a child support modification may be warranted. In Chattanooga, this change in circumstance must include a 15 percent change in the paying parent’s income and a 15 percent variance in the final child support number, a rule known as the significant variance standard. Whenever that 15 percent of variance occurs, regardless of how much time has passed since the initial order, the parties are allowed to bring the case up for review by the court.

Another factor that could result in eligibility for a child support modification include permanent changes to the paying parent’s employment status. A knowledgeable lawyer in the area could determine if a parent’s current situation qualifies as a valid change in circumstance under state law.

What are Circumstances for Revisions?

The Volunteer State calculates child support after reviewing the non-custodial parent’s salary, capital gains, commissions and bonuses, retirement accounts, and any additional income sources such as rental properties and side businesses. Some of the most common reasons a custodial or non-custodial parent may request child support modification by the court include:

  • A significant change in income, often due to inheritance, job loss, or promotion
  • Long-term unemployment
  • Remarriage resulting in financial gain
  • Relocation
  • Parent or child with extraordinary medical or educational expenses
  • A child with special needs
  • Evidence of parental alcohol and drug abuse putting the children at risk

A child support modification order does not change the parents’ obligations. It simply means the order has undergone revision in light of a “significant variance.” Tennessee laws define “significant variance” as a change in gross income of at least 15 percent. Other grounds include changes in the health of the child, a change in the number of children the non-custodial parent is responsible for.

If the parent applying for the modification qualifies as a low-income provider, such as a person whose Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) is at or below the federal poverty line, there must be a 7.5 percent variation in income. Local lawyers who provide child support modification services could help parents learn which rules apply to them to avoid potentially lengthy delays.

Why Can Modification Be Denied?

The court generally approves child support modification orders unless there are exceptions regarding the health of the child or children. For example, if the child must undergo surgery due to an injury or illness, the primary residential parent may request additional child support despite it impacting the alternative residential parent’s monthly income, causing a significant variance.

Judges may also deny modification requests if the alternative residential parent deliberately stopped making child support payments before filing a petition. By promptly filing a modification requires combined with clear efforts to make custody payments, typically result in agreement adjustments, even if they are not as much as originally pursued.

If the non-custodial parent does not provide child custody payments, they could face penalties such as tax refund seizures, license suspensions, property liens, and bank asset forfeitures. These penalties might be avoided by working with an attorney in the community who has experience handling cases like these.

How Child Support is Recalculated

The state uses a standardized child support worksheet to calculate child support, and the same tool is used to make payment modifications. Essentially, the worksheet is an Excel spreadsheet with built-in formulas. All of the information pertaining to the two parties is input into the worksheet to calculate an ultimate number for payments.

The information that the worksheet uses to calculate the final number can include:

  • The monthly gross income of each parent
  • The amount of health insurance payments
  • The amount of work-related childcare
  • The amount of time each parent spends with their child
  • Whether either parent has other children living in their home

A local attorney who has experience modifying child support agreements could further explain how this information factors into the recalculation of payments.

An Attorney Could Help With Modifying Child Support Payments in Chattanooga

If you have undergone a significant change in circumstance and no longer believe that your child support agreement is relevant to your current situation, you may be eligible to petition for a modification. A seasoned attorney could tell you if you a credible case for modification and guide you through the cumbersome legal process to achieve the changes you want. Call today to schedule a confidential consultation and learn more about your options for modifying child support payments in Chattanooga.

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