How to Modify a Child Support Arrangement
When parents separate or divorce, the courts will usually create an arrangement for the custody of their children and the payment of child support. If a parent’s financial situation changes or other significant life circumstances occur, they may consider filing for a modification to the child support arrangement.
How can you modify a child support arrangement? Our child support attorney at Middle Tennessee Family Law can help you understand the laws surrounding child support modifications. With an office in Franklin, Tennessee, we provide trusted advocacy to individuals and families throughout Middle Tennessee, including Nashville and Murfreesboro.
Reasons to Modify a Child Support Arrangement
According to the official website of the Tennessee state government, either a custodial or non-custodial parent can request to modify an existing child support arrangement at any time. However, there are certain circumstances in which parents are more likely to be granted a modification of child support:
Change in financial situation. A change in financial situation is one of the most common reasons to modify a child support arrangement. Under Tennessee law, the party seeking modification must prove that there has been a significant variance of 15% or more since the original order was issued. If a court determines that such a variance exists, it will consider modifying the order to reflect the changes in financial circumstances.
Custody changes. Custody modifications can also impact child support arrangements. Depending on which parent has primary physical custody of the child, some amount of child support may be owed from one parent to another. If either parent is granted full or shared physical custody, it may be necessary to adjust the existing arrangement accordingly.
Disability. If either party becomes disabled after a child support order has been established, they may seek a modification based on their decreased ability to earn an income due to their disability. A court could reduce or suspend payments until such time as the disability is resolved and/or their earning potential returns to its pre-disability level.
Change in the child’s needs. If there have been significant and ongoing changes in the child’s needs, including medical or educational needs, those changes may warrant a modification of child support.
New baby. The birth of another baby can also affect an existing child support arrangement. Although most courts take into account both parties’ incomes when determining initial orders, if one party’s income subsequently increases due to additional children coming into his/her care, then that could justify revisiting and adjusting an existing order.
Remarriage. Remarriage can also affect an existing child support arrangement if it results in increased disposable income for one party by 15% or more due to contributions from their new spouse (e.g., higher wages). In this case, it would be possible for either party to seek a modification of an existing order based on these factors.
When deciding whether it’s worth it to file for modification of your existing Tennessee child support order, you should always speak with legal counsel and weigh all your options carefully before making any decisions that could have long-term financial ramifications for you and your family.
Tennessee Guidelines for Modifying Child Support
As mentioned earlier, Tennessee courts agree to modify a child support arrangement when there is proof of a “significant variance” between the current child support amount and the amount being requested. For the purposes of the law, a significant variance is defined as:
A 15% or greater change in the gross income of the payor parent (the parent who was ordered to pay child support);
A change in the number of children that the payor parent is supporting; or
The child becomes disabled.
Alternatively, parents can also voluntarily agree to the proposed change. However, the proposed modification must still comply with Tennessee’s guidelines for modifying child support.
Slightly different rules apply if the parent requesting to modify a child support arrangement qualifies as a “low-income provider.”
For low-income providers, the threshold for modifying a child support order is reduced from 15% to 7.5%. A parent qualifies as a low-income provider if they (a) have an adjusted gross income at or below the poverty level based on federal standards and (b) are not voluntarily unemployed or underemployed (in other words, the parent must be working at their full capacity).
Also, keep in mind that courts in Tennessee consider different sources of income for the purpose of calculating child support. These sources include:
Self-employment income (e.g., money earned from freelancing);
Annuities, pensions, and retirement plans;
Salaries, wages, fees, commissions, and tips;
Social Security benefits, unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation; and
Interest, dividends, and capital gains.
Consider speaking with an experienced attorney if you need help modifying a child support arrangement. An attorney can explain Tennessee’s guidelines for modifying child support and assist you with filing your request for a modification.
Get the Support of an Attorney
If you want to learn more about how to modify a child support arrangement in Tennessee, contact Middle Tennessee Family Law for a free case review. Our child support lawyer in Franklin, Tennessee, can assess your situation and help you determine whether you can request a modification. Reach out today to schedule your free consultation.