A divorce ends a marriage, but when there are children involved, divorce does not end the parenting obligations. If you are divorcing, or if a dispute with your ex over child support arises after your divorce, you must be advised and represented by a .

If you have been ordered by a Tennessee court to pay child support to your child’s other parent, for how long will those payments continue? What happens if your life changes, and you are no longer able to pay the amount that was ordered? Can you have a child support order changed?

If you will keep reading this brief discussion of child support orders and how to modify them in Tennessee, you will learn the answers to these questions, and you will also learn how a will provide the legal advice and representation that a parent may need.

For How Long is Child Support Paid?

After most divorces in this state, the non-custodial parent will be ordered by the court to make regular child support payments to the custodial parent, and those payments are to continue until the child either graduates from high school or turns age 18, whichever comes first.

After divorcing, the parents are equally responsible for supporting their child or children. If divorcing spouses can agree on the child support amount that the non-custodial parent will pay to the custodial parent, a Tennessee court will usually “sign off” on the voluntary agreement.

But if there is a dispute, the court will resolve it by ordering a child support arrangement that will be in the child’s best interests. That child support order stays in effect until the child graduates from high school or turns age 18 or until a modification of the order is approved by the court.

How is the Amount of a Child Support Payment Determined?

When divorcing parents in Tennessee cannot agree on a child support arrangement, the court will use the state’s established child support guidelines to issue an order for child support based on the parents’ incomes, assets, and the time each parent spends with the child or children.

Of course, even when the parents or their lawyers settle the child support question – or after a court order has been imposed – a substantial change in a parent’s or a child’s situation at a later date may require the modification of the child support arrangement at that time.

Are Child Support Modifications Unusual?

Whether the arrangement was agreed to by the parents or imposed on the parents by the court, sometimes a child support agreement must be revised. Everyone’s life will change at one time or another, so child support order modifications are not at all unusual in the Tennessee courts.

If for any reason you cannot make the child support payments that you have been ordered to pay, you cannot simply quit paying. If you do that, you will be subject to harsh legal penalties. Instead, ask a child support attorney to request a child support order modification from the court.

For What Reasons May a Child Support Order Be Modified?

The parent who requests a modification of the child support order has the burden of proving to the court that changed circumstances have made the previous child support order obsolete or impractical.

The reasons a child support order may be modified include but are not limited to:

  1. a parent’s job promotion, demotion, or termination and unemployment
  2. a parent’s or child’s serious injury or illness
  3. a parent’s criminal conviction penalized with a prison or jail sentence
  4. the birth of another child with another partner
  5. a change in the child’s medical, educational, or childcare needs

If the parent who is asking for a modification of the child support order can prove that his or her circumstances have significantly changed, the court may order an increase or decrease in the amount of the child support payments, an end to the payments, or other necessary modifications.

Can Parents Agree on Their Own to Modify the Court Order?

Divorced parents cannot modify a child support order by themselves or without court approval. Until a judge issues a new order, the previous order remains in effect. Put any new agreement in writing, contact a Kingston child support lawyer, and ask that lawyer to have a judge approve it.

Some parents seek the modification of a child support order hoping that their payments will decrease, but after going to court, the figure actually increases. On the other hand, when custodial parents ask for higher child support payments, they may end up receiving less.

If you need to have a child support order modified, schedule a consultation immediately to discuss the matter with a Kingston child support attorney. If your lawyer determines that you qualify for a modification, your lawyer will then prepare your request and submit it to the court.

If You Are Not Receiving Court-Ordered Child Support Payments

If your ex is not making child support payments that he or she has been ordered to pay, you may ask the court to enforce its child support order. You and your child support lawyer will have to prove your ex hasn’t made payments, hasn’t paid fully, or has missed payment deadlines.

You may be asked to explain how the other parent’s failure to make child support payments is harming your child. The court may impose a wage garnishment on parents who do not pay child support, and in severe cases, a non-paying parent may face a contempt of court charge.

What Else Should You Know About Child Support in Tennessee?

Divorced parents in Tennessee should understand that to obtain a child support order modification, not only must they prove that circumstances have changed, but they also must offer the court conclusive evidence that the proposed modification will be in the child’s best interests.

Judges know that life changes, so child support orders are routinely modified. Nevertheless, a Tennessee court’s top priority is a child’s long-term best interests, and a judge will not modify a child support order without proof that the modification will be in a child’s best interests.

If you need to have a child support order modified in this state, or if you need legal advice or legal representation regarding any matter of family law, schedule a consultation promptly with a Tennessee family law attorney who will put the law to work for you.