Tennessee law case summary on child support arrearage in Tennessee divorce and family law from the Tennessee Court of Appeals.
Ashley King V Kenneth J Wulff – Tennessee Child Support Arrearage Law
The appeals court took on the case of Ashley King, mother and Kenneth Wulff, father. The two were divorced in October of 1991. The father was required to pay child support of $300 per month through the divorce decree. In addition, the divorce decree required that the father pay half of the necessary and reasonable expenses for the college education of the minor children, which included tuition, room, board, and books until the child reaches the age of 23 or graduates.
In February of 2008, a trial court held a hearing and found that the father owed child support arrearage of $58,000 plus dental and medical expenses, for a total judgment of $77,764.94. The child reached the age of majority in April of 2008. In August of 2008, the trial court required the father to pay $600 per month in child support judgment payments. The trial court also stated that the father was to immediately pay the mother sums due for the child’s college expenses.
In January of 2009, the mother filed a contempt petition that the father willfully failed to pay $600 a month or the college expenses, which totaled $4,725.50 for his half. The court awarded the mother a judgment of $7,325.50. In August of 2009, the trial court declined to find father in contempt on the basis that he was unable to pay. At this point, the father’s arrearages amounted to $76,464.96. The father’s income was to be garnished for $600 per month.
The appeals court was brought in based on the petition filed by the mother in May of 2010 stating that additional expenses in the amount of $7,051 were additionally necessary for further education. She had received $600 per month out of the father’s wages but she stated this did not cover the interest on previous judgments awarded to her. She requested that the court require the father to pay as previously ordered by the court, which was his portion of the amount of educational expenses exclusive of his monthly payment.
In a hearing held on November 2010, the mother provided proof of additional college expenses for the fall 2010 semester. The court ordered a judgment of $10,576.50. The court further ordered that a wage assignment of $1,200 per month or half of his earnings, whichever is less be put in place.
The father filed the appeal. The father claimed, in appeal, that the agreed order entered in April of 2008 set forth a monthly arrearage payment of $600. He stated that due to the principle of res judicata that amount could not be increased. The father believes this freezes the amount to be paid. The father stated that the monthly child support of $300 was in effect until the August 2008 ruling. At which time, the parties agreed to $600 per month.
The appeals court found that the court has the ability to determine how arrearages are paid. As such, it found no support for the father’s position. It rejected his assertion that the trial court erred and affirmed the decision of the lower court.
NO M2011-00300-COA-R3-CV, October 4, 2011.
See original opinion for exact language. Legal citations omitted.
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