Any divorcing or separating parent needs to educate themselves on the laws regarding child support. State law requires all parents to provide for their children’s basic needs until they reach the age of 18 or after their high school graduation. If a child has a severe mental or physical disability, a parent might be obliged to provide support indefinitely.
Child support can become a contentious issue as some parents may attempt to use the money as leverage. Child support is the child’s right, and parents who try to pay less than they should are harming their children.
Parents negotiating child support need the counsel of an experienced family law attorney. A Red Bank child support lawyer could help parents understand the child support system in the state of Tennessee and develop an agreement that serves the children’s best interests.
Like most states, Tennessee publishes guidelines describing the amount of child support an individual must pay. The guidelines consider factors including:
In most cases, the Alternate Residential Parent (ARP) will pay child support to the Primary Residential Parent (PRP), the parent the children live with the majority of the time.
However, every family is different and has unique needs, and there is a degree of flexibility built into the state’s child support calculator worksheets. Working with a diligent Red Bank child support attorney to complete the worksheets could help ensure that they accurately reflect a family’s situation.
The worksheets reveal the Basic Child Support Obligation (BCSO), which is the minimum amount the ARP will pay to the PRP. However, courts have the discretion to increase or decrease the amount if circumstances warrant.
Even though a formula determines the BCSO, the process is not cut-and-dry. Parents could make negotiations more contentious than necessary or miscalculate child support if they do not understand some basic rules, which is why it is wise to consult a knowledgeable lawyer in Red Bank before finalizing a child support agreement.
All income counts when calculating child support, not just the earned income a parent reports on their taxes. This could include:
All of the above are examples of income a parent must include when calculating their child support obligation.
Although courts usually do not deviate from the guidelines when awarding child support, they might award more than the guidelines call for if a parent could show the children’s extra expenses amount to more than seven percent of the BCSO. These add-on expenses could include summer camp, music lessons, sports, school clubs and extra-curricular activities, and similar expenses.
Parents must decide child support issues before a court will finalize their divorce. The parenting plan that covers child custody and visitation issues also must include a section about child support. Because the time each child spends with each parent influences the amount of child support, parents must agree on custody before calculating child support.
Courts strongly prefer parents to formulate a parenting plan themselves rather than forcing the court to decide. Parents are in a better position to know how these decisions will work best for their family. If a couple cannot communicate well or needs help to keep focused on the pertinent issues, they could benefit from attending mediation sessions to resolve disputes surrounding custody and child support.
Developing a plan themselves has numerous benefits. Besides being faster, less expensive, and more private, creating a parenting plan and child support agreement keeps control with the parents. It also offers them the flexibility to include provisions that a court might not have the authority to offer. For example, a PRP might agree not to accept payment for special expenses if the ARP agrees to pay for a child’s college tuition.
If you are struggling to reach an agreement with your co-parent about child support, you are not alone.
A Red Bank child support lawyer could help you negotiate an agreement that serves your child’s best interests. Talk to an understanding and dedicated attorney about your child support concerns today.