Receiving Credit for Supporting Children Living in the Parent’s Home in Tennessee Child Support

Receiving Credit for Supporting Children Living in the Parent’s Home In Tennessee Child Support Law

Receiving Credit for Supporting Children Living in the Parent’s Home In Tennessee Child Support Law

Receiving credit for supporting children living in the parent’s home under the Tennessee Child Support Guidelines.

As the very configuration of “family” changes, there is an important distinction to be highlighted under the Tennessee Child Support Guidelines in the treatment of children who are half-siblings.  The difference of whether half-siblings live together in the same household or are split between two households can mean a difference how a credit for supporting those children are determined and the proof required.

As with any “other” children, outside of the pending child support case, there are three mandatory criteria to get the issue before the judge.  The three mandatory criteria are found in Tennessee Child Support Guidelines Rule 1240-02-04.04(5)(a), “Adjustments to Gross Income for Qualified Other Children.”  They are:  (1) a legal responsibility for children; (2) proof of support payments; and, (3) children outside the pending case.

To successfully make the argument of being “legally responsible,” an adult must establish a biological relationship, an adoptive relationship, a voluntary acknowledgment of being the biological parent, a determination by a court, birth during a marriage, or birth within 300-days of termination of a marriage.  The phrase “legally responsible for a child” is defined within the Tennessee Child Support Guidelines Rule 1240-02-04-.02(14).

One can be legally responsible for a child in the context of providing a primary residence for the child and having a schedule of fifty percent or more of the parenting schedule.  This can be established by presenting the court order in that case.  The Tennessee Child Support Guidelines also invite submission of school and medical records for the child, particularly showing the child’s residential address.

Proof of “legal responsibility” can also include a birth certificate, DNA test results, or a written acknowledgment of paternity.  The Tennessee “Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity” form is a sworn statement filed within the office of vital records, certified by the government.  Similar acknowledgment of paternity forms, completed in another state, may also serve this purpose, if they fulfilled the requirements of the foreign state.  More information about this process can be found within Tennessee Code Annotated Section 24-7-113.

It is worth noting that step-children do not qualify under this criterion.  In Tennessee, there is no claim a parent can make for a credit against income computation or for a deviation from a strict computation of child support on the basis of step-children, even if residing with and providing financial support to them.  Any financial offerings made by a step-parent are considered voluntary.  As the state of Tennessee wrote it under its Rule 1240-02-04-.04-5(b), a parent only has a legal responsibility for one’s own children, and not for any step-children.

It is the second criterion then addresses the mathematics.  When the other children are part of a parent’s current household, in almost all conceivable situations, there isn’t going to be a payable child support order for the other child not the subject of the order being considered.

According to the Tennessee Child Support Guidelines, a theoretical child support order should be calculated as if child support was owed for the child.  The theoretical child support calculation is then multiplied by 75%, and the resulting number is the credit.  This means starting over and calculating a hypothetical child support order for the other child.  For this theoretical support order, no particular directions are provided by the Guidelines.  Strategically, it makes sense that the assumptions made in the theoretical support order be as consistent as possible with the order being considered.

The amount of the credit is calculated separately on the Credit Worksheet.  The Credit Worksheet is a subschedule, found after the primary Child Support Worksheet.  That amount then appears on the Child Support Worksheet at line “1d,” which reads “Credit for in-home children.”  The credit amount is then subtracted from the gross income of the parent paying child support, before the multiplication of the percentage of the parent’s gross income for child support purposes.

Even if all three criteria are established, the judge is not required to make a downward adjustment of child support.  The tribunal is only required to “consider” the other children, outside the pending case.  The judge could make no adjustment to the child support computation or could make as much downward adjustment to child support as appears appropriate.

One additional provision provides more language that is also discretionary.  Tennessee Child Support Guidelines Rule 1240-02-04-.01(3)(g) requires the judge to “[a]llocate a parent’s financial child support responsibility from the parent’s income among all of the parent’s children for whom the parent is legally responsible in a manner that gives equitable consideration…to children for whom support is being set in the case before the tribunal and to other children for whom the parent is legally responsible and supporting.”  While it is no more predictable than the other section, it speaks to all children of a parent across households with a goal of equitable financial treatment.

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