What happens if back child support is owed in Tennessee?
When back child support is owed, the Treasury Offset Program (TOP) may intervene on behalf of the parent seeking it. Tennessee child support laws provide this program so that parents who are owed money can take the necessary steps to enforce child support and recover what was never paid.
The laws specifically allow for retroactive child support from the date a child was born, the date of a divorce/separation or the date when a parent abandoned a child. If these circumstances apply to you, it could mean owing a lot of money.
Collecting Back Child Support in Tennessee
Once a parent falls behind on payments or suddenly refuses to pay, the other parent usually will do what he or she can to get all owed money back. Unfortunately those who fall behind can cause a significant financial burden.
This is especially true if you also are required to pay interest charges and fees. The other parent will stand a better chance at receiving back child support if it was court-ordered. But even if it wasn’t, they still have options available for going after the parent not supporting a child.
If a parent not receiving support does not want to hire an attorney, the Tennessee Department of Human Services is the agency that handles these types of cases. The other parent may fill out an application for child support enforcement with DHS.
TOP (or another agency) may work with the parent to get the child support automatically taken from federal payments, such as income tax refunds.When a parent’s child support isn’t court-ordered, a hearing is usually set. This is where the course of action to be taken will be decided.
Besides getting the money from federal payments, there are other options for receiving back child support. One of the more common ways to get it is through wage garnishment. But you face other significant problems such as having your driver’s license suspended, property seized, passport denied, being ordered to pick up trash on highways, and even jail time.
Options When Back Child Support Is Owed
There may be options you can seek if you owe support. One of the first things you might want to do is talk to an attorney. It’s important that you make efforts to meet your financial obligations.
In some cases, part of your child support may be dismissed. One way this could happen is if your child lived with you for a portion of time and you can prove you provided necessaries (food, shelter, clothing, and education expenses). But, the evidence laws on seeking credit for necessaries can be tricky.
Unless the court will allow credit for necessaries, note that interest on child support owed might be owed regardless. Generally, this requires an agreement to pay off your back child support within a certain time period. A payment schedule sometimes can be arranged. Or you may need to take out a loan to pay some of the arrearage in a lump sum. Depending on the situation and the judge, offering a lump-sum payment of arrearages could make the difference between having to go to jail and not.
As an update, a new law was enacted in 2015 that may provide an opportunity for some relief. To learn more, see Back Child Support Now Waivable Due to Change in Tennessee Child Support Law.
Keep in mind that there is the possibility of an error in the amount of support owed. So make sure you verify the correct amount. Always keep canceled checks or other proof payment – forever!
For more information, see Child Support Enforcement & Collection in Tennessee Family Law FAQs.
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.