Transportation Costs & Travel Expenses for Long Distance Visitation
Transportation costs & travel expenses for long distance visitation under the Tennessee Child Support Guidelines.
In the global economy, more and more parents have to travel further and further to find good-paying jobs. It also means that second families are being started in other states and even abroad.
An additional sentence also enters into this topic, as found in the Tennessee Child Support Guidelines at Rule 1240-2-4-.07(2)(c), “If parenting time-related travel expenses are substantial due to the distance between the parents, the tribunal may order the allocation of such costs by deviation from the [presumptive child support obligation], taking into consideration the circumstances of the respective parents as well as which parent moved and the reason that the move was made.”
These provisions merely require the judge to “consider” whether a reduction in child support should occur as a result of visitation transportation costs. There is no mandatory reduction in child support for travel related to visitation. There is also no formula to tell a judge how to calculate an adjustment to a parent’s child support obligation from among choices of methodology, such as allocating costs between the parents or cost-offset ratio against a strict computation of the child support obligation.
Because the travel expenses reduction is fraught with judicial discretion, the long-distance parent should be ready to argue for a specific, quantified reduction in child support, and to demonstrate the reduction relative to the actual costs of engaging in long-distance visitation. The relocating parent might also want to demonstrate a solid history of taking part in all local visitation opportunities to help bolster the claim that visitation, even if expensive, will regularly continue into the future.
Another common proof problem in these types of cases is that the application will be quickly filed, before any pattern of expenses has been incurred. Perhaps there was only one roundtrip ticket and the local parent argues that cheaper flights are available. Perhaps the relocating parent also has a modification application pending for the parenting schedule, leaving the amount of travel for the child as yet undetermined. Or, perhaps a long-distance schedule was agreed, as well as a downward modification of child support, only to find that the schedule isn’t being followed.
The Tennessee Court of Appeals in the 2008 case of Long vs. Long attempted to deal with long-distance visitation expenses. The Father lost his request for a reduction of child support due to the long-distance visitation expenses.
The Longs had three minor children when they divorced. The family had moved several times over the years – indeed, one child was born in Virginia, another in Florida, with only the third was born in Tennessee. The parents separated while both resided in Tennessee, but, during their separation, the Father moved to Maryland. If the facts had stopped there and remained focused upon employment as the basis of relocation, the case might have gone to a different outcome.
However, the written decision of the Court of Appeals did not present the Father as a sympathetic parent, and it concluded that the Father’s move to Maryland was to be closer to his girlfriend. Unfortunately for the Father, the trial court and the Court of Appeals repeatedly focused upon the Father’s trips with his paramour, gifts to her, secret bank accounts, cashing of work checks, gambling debts, and then his claims that he could not meet the temporary child support and alimony awards of the trial court. Between these judicial findings and the Father’s greater income, there was no ($0) adjustment to his child support obligation to account for the long-distance visitation expenses.
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.