The Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS), as of May 10, 2020, has implemented and revised the child support guidelines to help align all child support orders with changing family economics, improve the system for both custodial and non-custodial parents, and meet new federal requirements.
These are the first major changes to Tennessee’s child support guidelines since 2005 and they include:
– Granting non-custodial parents, the right to request a modification of their child support if they are sentenced to or currently serving more than 180 days of incarceration.
– Allowing credit for health, vision, and dental care paid by stepparents in the child support calculations.
– Creating a minimum child support order of $100 for noncustodial parents in some circumstances.
– Establishing a self-support reserve for noncustodial parents to ensure they have enough resources for basic needs while fulfilling their child support obligation. Under this change, child support orders in most cases would leave the noncustodial parent with at least $1,150 a month to live on.
– Allowing a person’s criminal record to be used to determine a parent’s income if there is no other evidence to use in child support calculations.
The definition of a “day” remains the same as 12 hours in a 24-hour period. However, the new guidelines include language clarifying that, in extraordinary circumstances, routinely incurred parenting time or shorter duration may be aggregated and counted as a single day. This language is now included in the definition of “day” for clarity.
Gross income includes income for any source and includes additional examples to eliminate any confusion about the nature of the definition such as: gifts or inheritances; income earned by an inmate while incarcerated; and benefits (i.e. company car, housing, room and board, etc.).
There are now two exceptions to voluntary unemployment or underemployment. First, incarceration is no longer grounds to find someone voluntarily underemployed. Second, a parent whose income is reduced because he or she enlists in the military or is drafted is not willfully underemployed.
Further, guidance of imputing is updated in that they include an expanded list of factors to consider when determining the income for a voluntarily unemployed or underemployed parent. This list includes: assets; residence; employment and earnings history; job skills; education; literacy; age; health; criminal record and barriers to employment; efforts to find employment; the local job market; the availability of employers willing to hire the parent; prevailing earning in the local community; and any other relevant factors.
Now, a parent can receive credit for their child’s portion of the cost of dental and vision insurance if it is at a reasonable cost. A reasonable cost of medical insurance is determined if it does not exceed five percent of the responsible parent’s gross income.
Another addition is that insurance costs incurred by a stepparent who insures the child can be included and credited to the stepparent’s spouse.
Department of Children’s Services
When a child is placed in DCS custody, the new guidelines allow the department to set an initial support order without using the child-support worksheet. This is to get some support flowing quickly when a child enters DCS custody, and then the case will proceed through the usual channels to determine the correct amount.
There are only minor revisions to the child-support worksheet under the new guidelines. For example, parents, in addition to be referenced as Mother and Father, can now be identified as Parent 1 and Parent 2 to accommodate cases with same-sex parents.
Modification of Existing Child-Support Orders
The TDHS is implementing a temporary requirement for case modifications that will remain in effect until November 10, 2020. During this time there must be a change of circumstances, such as income or number of children, in addition to at least a 15% change between the amount of the current support order and the amount of the proposed order for the case modification to be granted.
However, for child support orders modified between the current date and November 9, 2020, the petitioner must show a change in circumstances in addition to the 15% significant variance. Examples of a change in circumstances include a change in the number of children, changes in income, etc.
Steps to Take
Additionally, parents with an iPhone can download an app to get an estimate of what their child support order will look under these new guidelines. The app can be found on the Apple store by searching Child Support Calculator of TN. Parents who already have the Child Support Calculator of TN app will need to update it to reflect the new guidelines.