Child Support and Custody

When you have children, your relationship with your spouse does not end with the final divorce decree. You will need to have continued contact with your spouse about child support, parenting time, and other parental responsibilities. For the sake of your children, you want to keep open the lines of communication with your spouse. Your goal should be that your children are not the losers in your separation.

The Nashville child custody and support attorneys of MTR Family Law, PLLC have spent three decades helping families throughout Tennessee with their child support and custody issues. We know how sensitive these matters can be for all parties involved and will work hard to make sure the wellbeing of your children is considered in any decision you make.

What is Child Support?

Child support is money paid to the custodial parent for the support, maintenance, and education of the children. Voluntary gifts and payment of rent, which benefit the child when the child is with you, may not be considered support. The court does not require the custodial parent to account for the support. Child support ceases with emancipation of the child by state law or can continue as agreed by the parties.

Tennessee has guidelines by which courts determine support. The guidelines contain tables that consider the gross incomes of both parents paying support and the number of children. Arrangements with a more equal time-sharing arrangement are calculated differently.

Child support orders may be enforceable by a variety of means, such as wage attachment, execution, liens on the property, or contempt. They are not dischargeable in bankruptcy, but unpaid support may be collectible for only a limited time, by statute.

Factors in Determining Parenting Time and Decision-Making Authority

Issues involving minor children consist of two distinct concepts—decision-making and timesharing. Both or one of the parents may be responsible for making decisions affecting the children. Timesharing refers to the amount of time each parent will spend with the children.

The court determines custody based on what it believes to be the best interests of the children. The court considers all relevant factors, including the following, as set out in T.C.A. 36-6-106, where applicable:

  • The love, affection and emotional ties existing between the parents and child;
  • The disposition of the parents to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, education, and other necessary care and the degree to which a parent has been the primary caregiver;
  • The importance of continuity in the child’s life and the length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment; provided, that where there is a finding, under T.C.A 36-6-106(a)(8), of child abuse, as defined in T.C.A 39-15-401 or T.C.A. 39-15-402, or child sexual abuse, as described in T.C.A. 37-1-602, by one (1) parent, and that a non-perpetrating parent has relocated to flee the perpetrating parent, that such relocation shall not weigh against an award of custody;
  • The stability of the family unit of the parents;
  • The mental and physical health of the parents;
  • The home, school and community record of the child;
  • The reasonable preference of the child if twelve (12) years of age or older;
  • The court may hear the preference of a younger child upon request. The preferences of older children should normally be given greater weight than those of younger children;
  • Evidence of physical or emotional abuse to the child, to the other parent or to any other person; provided, that where there are allegations that one (1) parent has committed child abuse, as defined in T.C.A. 39-15-401 or T.C.A. 39-15-402, or child sexual abuse, as defined in T.C.A. 37-1-602, against a family member, the court shall consider all evidence relevant to the physical and emotional safety of the child, and determine, by a clear preponderance of the evidence, whether such abuse has occurred. The court shall include in its decision a written finding of all evidence, and all findings of facts connected thereto. In addition, the court shall, where appropriate, refer any issues of abuse to the juvenile court for further proceedings;
  • The character and behavior of any other person who resides in or frequents the home of a parent and such person’s interactions with the child; and
  • Each parent’s past and potential for future performance of parenting responsibilities, including the willingness and ability of each of the parents to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent, consistent with the best interest of the child.

Notwithstanding the provisions of any law to the contrary, the court has jurisdiction to make an initial custody determination regarding a minor child or may modify a prior order of child custody upon finding that the custodial parent has been convicted of or found civilly liable for the intentional and wrongful death of the child’s other parent or legal guardian.

Modification to Child Support or Custody

Until emancipation of the child, the court has the power to modify parenting time, decision-making, and child support whenever circumstances make such change proper. The same factors used in making the initial award are considered for modification. Modification generally requires a significant change of circumstances.

These factors could result in a shift in the primary residential arrangement, time allocation, or an increase or decrease in the support obligation. Remarriage of either parent does not automatically result in a change of circumstances.

Child support and custody can be a complicated situation that needs a deft hand to guide you through the process. We can help.

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