Do you have questions about child support enforcement and collection in Tennessee? If so, be sure to reach out to Memphis family attorney Shannon A. Jones to discuss your questions during a confidential consultation. For more than twenty years, he’s worked to achieve the best possible outcomes for families just like yours, and he’s committed to helping you.
Our firm is specifically focused on protecting the rights of children, and some of the most challenging and contentious issues that we see are those involving child support. Whether you are looking to enforce support and collect what the court has ordered, or if you need assistance modifying a current court order, turn to Shannon Jones for help.
We’ve provided the following answers to some frequently asked questions below, and we’re available to speak with you when you schedule a confidential consultation by calling (901) 390-9041 today.
What does ARP and PRP mean when it comes to child support in Tennessee?
The terms ARP and PRP are basic child support terms in Tennessee. The PRP is the “primary residential parent” and the ARP is the “alternate residential parent.” The ARP is also known as an obligee, and is owed support by the PRP, also known as an obligor.
What Does the Term “Arrearage” Mean?
Any amount that is owed for past support is called an arrearage. If an arrearage has been reduced to judgment by the court, it could include not just past support but also:
Reimbursement for unpaid expenses
Upon judgment, the court will order a monthly amount to be paid (which should be an amount more than the interest accrued monthly) to reduce the arrearage.
Parents Seeking Support
What Should I Do if My Ex’s Child Support Payment Is Late?
Don’t ignore the issue if a child support payment does not arrive. Be sure to communicate with your ex and ask for payment politely and firmly. You can reach out to the court if the payments are consistently late and ask for an Income Withholding Order (IWO) to have a portion of their wages assigned to you for child support.
Make sure to document all requests for payment and any unpaid child-related expenses for reimbursement.
If the child support payment is late, it’s a good idea to find out why. If your ex is just a little bit behind on payment, has a valid reason, and intends to pay, you might consider giving them some time. If they have the money, but are simply refusing to pay for any reason, then consider taking legal action.
When Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer?
In general, you should contact a lawyer 45 to 90 days after payment hasn’t been received. If you contact a lawyer too soon, the check might arrive, and everything will be fine. If you wait longer than 90 days, it is likely that payment is not coming, and you may find yourself struggling financially without it. Upon hiring an attorney, they will likely assist by sending the ARP what is known as a dunning letter informing them of the need to pay or face legal action.
If the ARP still refuses to pay, your lawyer will file a court action and will seek payment and interest, as well as court fees, filing fees, and attorney’s fees on your behalf.
How Is Child Support Enforced?
An experienced Tennessee family lawyer can help you get the child support payments you’re owed by filing a petition for contempt and collection. The following action could be taken against the ARP:
A Wage Assignment Order could be implemented for future support and arrearages
The arrearage could be reduced to judgment and a court order could be recorded
A monthly arrearage amount could be established
Unpaid child support could be subject to a 12% simple interest award
The ARP could face additional penalties including:
Being required to pick up trash
Being found in civil or criminal contempt
Incarceration in jail until a “purge payment” is made (typically ten days for each willful violation)
Revocation of certain licenses, including drivers’ license and hunting license, among others
While not every petition for contempt will send the ARP to jail, the state of Tennessee is not afraid to send delinquent parents to jail for refusal to pay child support. This option is usually exercised when a delinquent parent clearly has the means to pay, consistently fails to pay, and multiple petitions have been filed.
Parents Required To Pay Support
What Should I Do if I’ve Fallen Behind on Child Support Payments?
We all understand that life happens, and sometimes it can be difficult to meet your financial obligations. The courts in Tennessee take child support obligations seriously, and you should always do your best to pay what you’ve been ordered to. The first thing you should do if you’ve fallen behind on your child support payments is to contact an experienced family lawyer. You could be able to work out a payment arrangement with the PRP to catch up on payments in arrearage and have the court memorialize this arrangement in an order.
If you can’t afford to make your payments, you could file a petition for modification and reduce the monthly amount you owe, as well as set up a payment plan to catch up on the arrearage.
Whatever you do, remember that Tennessee’s statutory interest rate is charged at 12% annually, so it is not in your best interest to let payments lapse for any length of time.
What Happens if I Simply Can’t Pay?
If you believe it will be impossible to meet your child support obligations, your attorney will help you determine if you are eligible to have your child support reduced. The court might consider reducing payments if you’ve become unemployed or if your wages have decreased.
Do I Still Have to Pay Child Support if I’m Unemployed?
Yes. In Tennessee, you still must pay child support, even if you are no longer employed. Again, it is crucial to contact a lawyer, because there may be options available to you. For example, if you were laid off from your job, you could petition the court for short-term (reasonable) relief from payments until you’re able to find a new job. The court will be more likely to grant relief in situations like layoffs versus a termination due to misconduct like theft or an arrest.
While you are out of work, be sure to keep records of your job search, including applications, interview dates, and any job counseling you’ve sought. Make a reasonable effort to find new employment and consider part-time or gig-work to make ends meet during your search. Paying something is better than paying nothing at all, and you can demonstrate to the court that you’re willing to meet your obligations to the best of your ability.
How Long Can I Be Expected to Pay Child Support?
If you hold a legal duty to pay support in Tennessee, you must continue paying your obligations until your child turns 18 (or has graduated with their class as scheduled) or if there is an order terminating the obligation.
Termination of support obligations will only happen if:
The child has been adopted and parental rights have been terminated
The court terminates parental rights due to abuse or neglect
The child becomes emancipated
How Does Wage Assignment Work?
If wage assignment has been implemented, your employer will withhold the child support payments from your paycheck and will submit payment to the state of Tennessee, which will then issue payment to the PRP. Some people also refer to this as a wage garnishment, and it could either be implemented at the beginning of the process or could be implemented after multiple payments have been missed.
To put this in place, a judge will sign an Income Withholding Order (IWO) which will be recorded and enforced.
Why Do I Need a Lawyer?
Child support obligations are not to be taken lightly, and the state of Tennessee will harshly enforce these orders to ensure the welfare of the child. Attorney Shannon Jones understands that parents may be confused about how to pay or collect support payments, and life circumstances can sometimes get in the way of even the most well-intentioned of parents. That’s why we are available to discuss your situation in detail and help you understand all of the legal options available to you.
Contact Us For A Free Consultation
We represent parents who are seeking to enforce child support orders as well as those who need help modifying an order or seeking relief due to layoffs or other unforeseen circumstances. It’s our goal to help you through this, so call Shannon Jones, Attorney at Law at (901) 390-9041 to schedule a confidential consultation today.