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  • Writer's pictureJay Ingrum

Mastering Child Support: Key Insights and Guidelines - Part 2 of 2

Legal Lens: Viewing Law Through Ingrum Expertise

Child support - ingrum law

Child Support: How Is It Figured and Paid?

In Tennessee, the courts utilize the income shares model in calculating child support.  Courts consider the gross monthly income of the father and the gross monthly income of the mother.  Courts consider the number of days the child spends with the father and with the mother.  A day is considered to be twelve (12) hours or more, so basically an overnight visit.  Parents get credit for any in-home children from another relationship and a credit for any not-in-home children from another relationship that they have an obligation to support.  The parent paying the children’s portion of the health insurance premium gets a credit for that in the calculation.  The parent paying for any work-related childcare gets a credit for that in the calculation.  Once all of these variables are plugged into the child support worksheet, then the child support obligation is calculated.  It is like any other mathematical formula, junk in is junk out.  In other words, if you don’t plug in the correct numbers, then it will not produce the correct amount of child support.

Child support can be paid weekly, monthly, twice per month, or every two weeks, depending on how the person paying the child support is paid by his or her employer.  The Tennessee Child Support Guidelines prefer that the child support is paid through the Central Child Support Receipting Unit in Nashville.  However, child support can be paid directly to the other parent.  Either way, the person paying the child support must make sure to document their payments just in case there is every a discrepancy and an alleged child support arrearage.  Finally, a wage assignment can also be helpful.  This allows the child support to be taken out of the check of the person paying the child support and sent to Central Child Support Receipting without the person paying support having to address an envelope, use a stamp, and drop it in the mail.  It is simply more convenient.  It just happens automatically every week.

Federal Income Tax Exemption: Who Gets to Claim the Child(ren)?

The Tennessee Child Support Guidelines include a presumption that the person receiving child support will be the person who is allowed to claim the tax deduction for the child(ren).  This makes sense because generally child support does not cover all of the expenses of raising children.  Therefore, the person who is the primary residential parent (PRP) needs the deduction more than the alternative residential parent (ARP).

Proof of Parents’ Income, Work-Related Childcare Expenses, and Child’s Health Insurance Premium

A person’s child support obligation is not always going to stay the same.  It can increase or decrease depending on a number of factors including, but not limited to the following: a change in income for either party, a change in the child(ren)’s healthcare insurance premium expense, a change in the work-related childcare expense, additional in-home children or not-in-home children being born to either party, or a child reaching the age of eighteen (18) or graduating from high school, whichever occurs later.  Therefore, the parties are obligated to provide proof of income, work-related child care expenses, and the children’s health insurance premium on a yearly basis to the other party. This allows both parties to have accurate information so that the child support can be figured accurately each year.

Health Insurance: 50/50 vs. Pro Rata and Dental, Orthodontic, & Optical Insurance

The children’s health insurance can be maintained by the mother, the father, or by both.  As stated previously, whoever provides health insurance on the children will receive a credit in the child support calculation.  So, for example, if a father provides health insurance for his children, then his child support obligation will be lower.  Conversely, in that scenario, if the mother provides the children’s health insurance, then the father’s child support obligation will be higher.

 Some parents say, “Well, the kids are on Tenncare. Can’t we just leave them on Tenncare?”  You can do that, but the Child Support Services Division of the District Attorney’s Office will become involved at some point because one parent is receiving government aid for the children.  Therefore, it is cleaner and neater if one of the parents simply provides health insurance on the children.  Any reasonable and necessary medical expenses that are not covered by health insurance which could include deductibles, co-pays, eyeglasses, contact lens, routine annual physicals, and counseling can be paid by the mother, the father, split 50/50, or be paid pro-rata or by percentage in accordance with each parent’s income.

Life Insurance

Life insurance on one or both of the parents’ lives is optional.  If the parties agree, then one or both can keep or obtain life insurance policies on their lives.  Usually, the life insurance policy is maintained until the child support obligation has been completed.  Each policy shall name the child/children as sole irrevocable primary beneficiary with the other parent named as trustee for the benefit of the child(ren) to serve without bond or accounting.

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