Modifying Child Support

Modifying child support in Tennessee requires there to be a “significant variance” in the circumstances of the parents. Basically, there has to be a 15% change, between the current child support payment and the newly calculated amount. This calculation must be done using the Child Support Worksheet. Determining the variables for the calculation is not always straightforward, which can make modification rather difficult. If, however, you are seeking a modification in order to provide for your child/children’s healthcare needs, you shouldn’t have much of a problem.  

Typically, the process of modifying child support begins by collecting financial information on the other parent, making an accurate list of the days the child/children spend with the other parent throughout the year, health care costs, childcare costs and other costs paid by each parent. Next, redo the Child Support Worksheet with all the new information, and then file a petition requesting a modification on the basis of the “significant variance” as shown in the new calculation.

Some parents, knowing that the other parent is interested in modifying child support, do not want to cooperate with the process and will refuse to provide financial information. Some parenting plans contain provisions for the exchange of financial information, but if yours does not, and the other parent refuses to provide the information, you can still file a petition. You have to make as accurate a guess as you can about the other parent’s financial information for the initial filing and request, in your petition, the court to compel the production of the other parent’s financial records.

For the purpose of modifying child support in Tennessee, a “significant Variance” According to the Tennessee Child Support Guidelines (Rule 1240-2-4-.5) is as follows:  

Significant Variance Required for Modification of Order.

“(b)  For all orders that were established or modified before January 18, 2005, under the flat percentage guidelines, and are being modified under the income shares provisions for the first time, a significant variance is defined as:

  1. At least a fifteen percent (15%) change in the gross income of the ARP; and/or
  2. A change in the number of children for whom the ARP is legally responsible and actually supporting; and/or
  3. A child supported by this order becoming disabled; and/or
  4. The parties voluntarily entering into an agreed order to modify support in compliance with these Rules, and submitting completed worksheets with the agreed order; and
  5. At least a fifteen percent (15%) change between the amount of the current support order and the proposed amount of the obligor parent’s pro rata share of the BCSO if the current support is one hundred dollars ($100) or greater per month and at least fifteen dollars ($15) if the current support is less than one hundred dollars ($100) per month; or
  6. At least a seven and one-half percent (7.5% or 0.075) change between the amount of the current support order and the amount of the obligor parent’s pro rata share of the BCSO if the tribunal determines that the Adjusted Gross Income of the parent seeking modification qualifies that parent as a low-income provider.

(c) For all orders that were established or modified January 18, 2005 or after, under the income shares guidelines, a significant variance is defined as at least a fifteen percent (15%) change between the amount of the current support order (not including any deviation amount) and the amount of the proposed presumptive support order or, if the tribunal determines that the Adjusted Gross Income of the parent seeking modification qualifies that parent as a low-income provider, at least a seven and one-half percent (7.5% or 0.075) change between the amount of the current support order (not including any deviation amount) and the amount of the proposed presumptive support order.” Rule 1240-2-4-.5

Modifying child support in Tennessee can be challenging. There are other factors that can/must be considered when seeking a modification such as split parenting and arrears in child support. Below are some steps in analyzing whether either parent may qualify for a modification of child support.

Gather current financial information

Because the “significant variance” is determined by a 15% change between the original obligation and the current results of the Child Support Worksheet, the current financial information of both parents is vital. Most parenting plans have a provision obligating each parent to provide the other with current financial information when requested. Whether your parenting plan does or not, you may still request the information. If the other parent refuses to provide their information, we will have to seek other methods of getting it.  

Make an accurate record of visitation

An important variable for the Child Support Worksheet is the number of days the child/children spend with each parent. Make sure that we have an accurate record of each parent’s actual visitation. The parenting plan has a schedule for visitation, but there are times when that plan is not followed precisely, and any change in the amount of visitation may have an effect on the Child Support Worksheet.

Determining if there has been a “significant variance”

Once we have all the current financial and visitation information of both parents, we will run the numbers in the Child Support Worksheet. We then compare the new numbers with the existing numbers to see if there has been a “significant variance.”

“(c)  For all orders that were established or modified January 18, 2005 or after, under the income shares guidelines, a significant variance is defined as at least a fifteen percent (15%) change between the amount of the current support order (not including any deviation amount) and the amount of the proposed presumptive support order…” Rule 1240-2-4-.05(2)(c).

Healthcare need of the child/children

The child/children’s healthcare needs may provide an exception allowing for modifying child support. According to Tennessee Child Support Guidelines Rule 1240-2-4-.5(a),

“(a)  …[T]he necessity of providing for the child’s health care needs shall be a basis for modification regardless of whether a modification in the amount of child support is warranted by other criteria.” Rule 1240-2-4-.05(a).

This means that even without the “significant variance” of 15%, child support may be modified to address the child/children’s healthcare needs.

Determining whether the parent responsible for paying support is in arrears

If the court finds that the parent responsible for paying child support is intentionally in arrears, the court can deny a modification. Simply being in arrears is not a sufficient ground for denying a modification, the failure to pay must be intentional.

Prepare and file the petition

Once all the relevant information is collected and all the worksheets are completed, we will prepare a petition modifying child support and file it with the court.

If you are interested in modifying your child support obligation in Tennessee, contact Nashville Divorce Lawyers of the Law Office of Lords and Cate to discuss any legal concerns and questions you have. We can help protect your legal rights through this process.