Tennessee Child Support Income Shares Model

When Tennessee promulgated the income shares model for its major overhaul of Tennessee child support guidelines in 2004 and 2005, it impacted thousands of Tennessee families. Though there was a great deal of criticism, especially from

Tennessee child support guidelines income shares model

Tennessee child support guidelines income shares model impacted thousands of Tennessee families

Tennessee family lawyers, there is no need to repeat them here.  It can be very helpful to know to Tennessee family lawyers and parents alike to take a moment and read what is written about the income shares model within the Guidelines itself.


(1)   General Basis.

(a)                        The Tennessee Child Support Guidelines are based on an Income Shares Model. This model presumes that both parents contribute to the financial support of the child in pro rata proportion to the actual income available to each parent.

(b)                       The Income Shares model differs from the Department’s prior Flat Percentage model, established in 1989, which calculated the amount of the child support award based upon the net income of the non-custodial or alternate residential parent and which assumed an equivalent amount of financial or in-kind support was being supplied to the child by the custodial or primary residential parent. Although federal law requires consideration of only the income of the alternate residential parent, under the Income Shares model, both parents’ actual income and actual additional expenses of rearing the child are considered and made part of the support order.

(2)  The Income Shares model for determining the amount of child support is predicated on the concept that the child should receive support at the same level that the child would receive if the parents were living together. While expenditures of two-household divorced, separated, or single parent families are different from intact family households, it is very important that the children of this State, to the extent possible, not be forced to live in poverty because of family disruption, and that they be afforded the same opportunities available to children in intact families consisting of parents with similar financial means to those of their own parents.

(3)  A number of authoritative economic studies measuring average child-rearing expenditures among families indicate that, although the average dollar amount devoted to child-rearing expenditures increases as the parents’ incomes increase, the average percentage of parents’ income devoted to child-rearing expenditures decreases as the parents’ incomes increase. These studies also indicate that child-rearing expenditures in families are generally greater than what is minimally necessary to provide for the child’s basic survival needs but, instead, are made in proportion to household income. These studies measure total, average childrearing expenditures while also recognizing that household spending on behalf of children is intertwined with spending on adults for most large expenditure categories (e.g., housing, transportation) and that these expenditures cannot be disentangled, even with exhaustive financial affidavits from the parties.

(4)  The Income Shares model, which is used by over thirty (30) other states, is generally based on economic studies of child-rearing costs, including those of David Betson, Erwin Rothbarth, and Ernst Engel, and studies conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture and the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics involving expenditures for the care of children.

Tennessee Child Support Guidelines, August 2008.

Memphis divorce attorney, Miles Mason, Sr., JD, CPA, practices family law exclusively with the Miles Mason Family Law Group, PLC in Memphis, Tennessee serving clients in Germantown, Collierville and the west Tennessee area.  To learn more about Tennessee child support laws, read and view:



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