Factors for determining voluntary unemployment or underemployment in Tennessee child support divorce law are intuitive. None are confusing. The law did not change with the adoption of the income shares model. Many cases are not close calls. Punching a boss in the face will cause anyone to lose a job. That is an intentional act. On the other hand, many people get laid off due to corporate downsizing. That is not the fault of the parent.
But, what if a parent is suffering from clinical depression? What if a parent is laid off, but had a long history of disciplinary issues? What makes this challenging is the proof needed. The story an unemployed parent may tell will almost always be questionable. The only other objective witness may be the former employer. A lawyer may need to issue a subpoena to determine what the personnel file discloses.
Here is what the Tennessee’s Child Support Guidelines provide:
Factors to be Considered When Determining Willful and Voluntary Unemployment or Underemployment. The following factors may be considered by a tribunal when making a determination of willful and voluntary underemployment or unemployment:
(I) The parent’s past and present employment;
(II) The parent’s education, training, and ability to work;
(III) The State of Tennessee recognizes the role of a stay-at-home parent as an important and valuable factor in a child’s life. In considering whether there should be any imputation of income to a stay-at-home parent, the tribunal shall consider:
- Whether the parent acted in the role of full-time caretaker while the parents were living in the same household;
- The length of time the parent staying at home has remained out of the workforce for this purpose; and
- The age of the minor children.
(IV) A parent’s extravagant lifestyle, including ownership of valuable assets and resources (such as an expensive home or automobile), that appears inappropriate or unreasonable for the income claimed by the parent;
(V) The parent’s role as caretaker of a handicapped or seriously ill child of that parent, or any other handicapped or seriously ill relative for whom that parent has assumed the role of caretaker which eliminates or substantially reduces the parent’s ability to work outside the home, and the need of that parent to continue in that role in the future;
(VI) Whether unemployment or underemployment for the purpose of pursuing additional training or education is reasonable in light of the parent’s obligation to support his/her children and, to this end, whether the training or education will ultimately benefit the child in the case immediately under consideration by increasing the parent’s level of support for that child in the future;
(VII) Any additional factors deemed relevant to the particular circumstances of the case.
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: