Clients at all income levels come to me with concerns over child support. The economic hardships of the coronavirus quarantine have only served to amplify the problem. Fundamental fairness prevails as the primary reason the parent paying support questions the amount they have been ordered to pay. Sometimes, incomes have decreased, but the parent doesn’t want the children to feel the brunt of that change. Other times, the parent paying child support is also shouldering the burden of extras like private school tuition or extracurricular activities.
If you are divorced with children, it is highly likely that you have seen a parenting plan. Attached to the parenting plan that is filed with the court is a Child Support Worksheet. The Child Support Worksheet is a mandatory state form that, through a series of formulas, determines what amount of support is necessary for your child or children to live, and who should pay it. This amount is called the Presumptive Child Support Order, or PCSO.
In Tennessee, courts can deviate upward or downward from the PCSO to reach a Final Child Support Order (FCSO). The Child Support Worksheet has a specific section where the parties can provide reasons for the deviation. Reasons for a downward deviation include items like tuition, extracurricular expenses, travel expenses if the parties live far apart, payment to a special needs trust, or other extraordinary expenses that are not part of the day to day life for most children. Sometimes courts will deviate upward to prevent the parents’ disparity of income from having an adverse impact on the child. For instance, the courts don’t like to see a fabulously wealthy parent bestowing luxuries while the other parent struggles to provide a weekend trip to the movies. An upward deviation may be necessary just to provide for basic needs like childcare.
If you think you are paying too much child support, talk to an attorney. If you have experienced a reduction in income which would result in you paying at least15% less in child support, then you have grounds to ask the court to reduce your payment. If one of your children is turning 18 or graduating from high school, your child support obligation will decrease. In addition, the law has recently changed to allow courts to consider payments made by a spouse or partner for living expenses as income in a child support calculation. At a time like this, when almost all of us are experiencing economic uncertainty, it may be to your benefit to review your current child support obligation and consider if legal action is the right step for you.