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Tennessee Child Support Modification FAQs

Jan. 22, 2020

What Is Child Support Modification?

A child support award is not set in stone. A court may modify child support if a change is warranted. Tennessee state law allows a modification if there is a “significant variance” (change of 15% or more) between the existing child support order and the amount being requested.

Various circumstances may warrant child support modification. Tennessee law outlines specific guidelines for how to obtain a child support modification. Both parents have the right to request a modification of the child support order at any time.

What Are Some Circumstances That May Lead To Significant Variance?

All child support orders are calculated using the Income Shares Model, which is based on the idea that a child should receive the same proportion of income from a parent that they would have received if both parents lived together. Child support modifications are allowed if the court finds there is significant variance. A significant variance is defined as:

  • A 15% or greater change between the current child support amount and the proposed presumptive support amount or

  • At least a 7.5% change if the parent seeking the modification is a low-income provider

A low-income provider is defined as a parent working at their full capacity based upon education and experience and are below the federal poverty line based on their Adjusted Gross Income.

If either parent has undergone significant life changes or if the child’s financial needs have changed, parents can request a child support modification. Circumstances that may be grounds for a parent to seek a modification include:

  • Change in employment or job loss

  • Significant increase or decrease in parent’s income

  • Change in the child’s financial needs

  • Parenting time (visitation) adjustment

  • The child moves out (or moves back in)

  • Change in the number of children a parent is legally responsible

  • The child becomes disabled

  • The child turns 18 years old

  • Change in health insurance costs

How Do I Request A Child Support Modification?

Either parent can request a child support modification in person, in writing, or by calling the child support office. Each party will then have to, within 30 days, submit a document to the child support office that provides the necessary information. This information will be looked at by the Tennessee Child Support Division in determining whether a child support modification is allowed.

What Is The Process After I Have Asked To Have A Child Support Modification, And How Long Does It Take?

Certain conditions have to be met before a child support modification can be finalized. The Tennessee Child Support Division will review the information they receive from the two parties along with the current child support order to see whether the order qualifies for modification.

If it qualifies, the child support office will attempt to modify the order with an administrative modification. At the end of the administrative review, both parties will be notified of the result. If the amount of the order has been increased or decreased, the notice will reflect the new amount.

If the amount stays the same, the notice will state this. If an administrative modification is not possible, the office will ask the court to modify the order in a process known as a judicial modification.

Are Child Support Modifications Retroactive?

In Tennessee, child support modifications are not retroactive. The order amount is typically set for the date in which the modification petition was filed.

Under special circumstances, an arrearage amount (an amount of money that is owed and should have been paid earlier) may be reduced if both parties are able to agree on an amount and if a parent is eligible for a reduction.

What Is The Purpose Of Child Support?

Tennessee’s Child Support Guidelines lists several reasons for child support payments, such as:

  • Making child support awards fairer by ensuring more consistent and uniform treatment of individuals in similar circumstances while also ensuring that the best interests of the child are taken into consideration

  • Curbing the number of impoverished children living in single-parent households

  • Encouraging parents who are paying child support to keep contact with their child

  • Ensuring that, when parents live apart, the economic impact on the child is minimized

  • In cases where a parent enjoys a higher standard of living, the child benefits as well

I Have A Short-Term Emergency, Can I Modify The Child Support Order Temporarily?

Yes. Child support modifications can be permanent or temporary. Temporary modifications of child support can be granted due to temporary situations such as a child’s or parent’s medical emergency of the loss of employment by a parent. Temporary modification of child support may also be associated with a change of child custody if one parent has to be hospitalized for an extended period.

Can I Withhold Visitation If Child Support Is Not Paid?

No, a visitation agreement is separate from a support order and can only be modified by court order.

What If The Non-Custodial Parent Has Other Children?

If the parent of your child has other children, you may receive less child support. The court will consider any other child support the parent pays before making any decisions on the amount of child support.

To determine how much your ex-spouse’s other child support orders will affect your child support, subtract that amount from your ex-spouse’s income when completing the Child Support Guidelines worksheet. An experienced family law attorney can help you with the worksheet if you have any questions.

Contact A Memphis Child Support Attorney

If you are interested in learning more about modifications of child support, speak with a skilled and knowledgeable child support attorney.

Attorney Shannon A. Jones has more than two decades of experience helping parents in Tennessee resolve child support disputes. If you need help getting the financial support you need for your child, or if you need help modifying an existing agreement, Shannon A. Jones can help you. Call us now at (901) 390-9041 to schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your case.