How to Deviate from Tennessee’s Child Support Guidelines
Deviations allow for a greater or lesser amount owed than the child support amount calculated by the Tennessee Child Support Guidelines. Deviating is allowed but only in limited and listed circumstances.
Many a worried parent has asked our Memphis child support attorneys the question: “Can the Court deviate from the Tennessee Child Support Guidelines in my case?” That’s a very important family financial concern.
The short answer to the question above is “Yes,” the court does have discretion to deviate from the child support guidelines. But the court will do so only under very narrow circumstances.
Deviations: Preparing to Rebut the Child Support Presumption
Basically, the support calculated according to the guidelines is presumed to be the appropriate amount because both parents’ income streams and the maintenance needs of the child are fully considered. However, that presumption is a rebuttable one and may be challenged for good reason.
Here are some of the considerations and limitations imposed on a Tennessee court’s authority to order child support payments in an amount above or below that which was determined using the guidelines worksheet:
1. Best Interests of the Child:
First and foremost, any increase or decrease in the amount of support calculated under the guidelines must be in the child’s best interests.
2. Support Calculations Using the Guidelines:
Before the court will even consider a possible deviation, the child support worksheet must be completed with a specific amount determined as the basis. You need to know what the required amount is before you ask the court to deviate from it.
3. Reasons Supporting the Deviation:
If one or both parents ask the court to deviate from the guidelines, then the reasons for such must be stated with specificity. A request to pay less in child support because you “need more money to wine and dine potential customers” in your business, for example, may not be very persuasive with the court.
4. Unjust to Apply the Guidelines:
The court must conclude that staying with the amount mandated by the guidelines would be inappropriate or unjust in the circumstances.
5. Impact on Primary Residential Parent:
Not surprisingly, a departure from the amount in the guidelines cannot impair the Primary Residential Parent’s ability to provide food, shelter, clothing, and basic necessities for the child.
6. The Court’s Child Support Order:
Assume that the presumption has been rebutted, that the guidelines are not correct when applied to these circumstances, and that the judge has decided a deviation is appropriate and just. The court’s support order must include several details:
● The amount calculated under the guidelines without deviation;
● The reasons why the court awarded a different amount; and
● How the increase or decrease is in the child’s best interests.
These court’s findings will be very important with either parent’s request to modify child support in the future. When the reasons supporting the court’s deviation no longer exist, the support amount may be modified to match the amount calculated using the guidelines.
References, Resources and More:
- Tennessee Child Support Laws
- Tennessee Child Support Law Answers to FAQs
- Tennessee Child Support Calculator & Links to App
- Tennessee Parenting Plans and Child Support Worksheets: Building a Constructive Future for Your Family
- For analysis, updates, commentary and case law summaries, view the Tennessee Child Support category of our MemphisDivorce.com Tennessee Family Law Blog.