Requirements for Deviations in Tennessee Child Support
Often, in child support disputes, one parent may believe child support is too high. The other parent, however, may believe child support is too low. In a few cases, both parents may actually agree that child support should be different from that amount determined by the Tennessee worksheet calculation. It’s technically possible for a Tennessee judge to award child support other than that amount calculated, but don’t count on it. For a judge to award a different amount, the judge must determine a “deviation” to be in the best interest of the children. In order for the deviation to have binding legal effect, the process doesn’t just end with putting the child support amount on the form and calling it a day.
The Guidelines require listing the specific reasons for the deviation and what the child support would have been without the deviation. Unfortunately, this step sometimes gets overlooked by the parties’ lawyers and by judges. Consequently, this can cause legal difficulties with a child support modification later.
If there is going to be a deviation, check the specific provisions and adhere to all of the requirements. Here is one place you definitely want to dot your i’s and cross your t’s.
The Tennessee Child Support Guidelines read:
1240-2-4-.07 DEVIATIONS FROM THE CHILD SUPPORT GUIDELINES.
(1) Consideration of the Child’s Best Interests; Written Findings to Support the Deviation.
(a) The amounts of support established by these Guidelines are rebuttable.
(b) The tribunal may order as a deviation an amount of support different from the amount of the presumptive child support order if the deviation complies with the requirements of this paragraph (1) and with this chapter. The amount or method of such deviation is within the discretion of the tribunal provided, however, the tribunal must state in its order the basis for the deviation and the amount the child support order would have been without the deviation. In deviating from the Guidelines, primary consideration must be given to the best interest of the child for whom support under these Guidelines is being determined.
(c) When ordering a deviation from the presumptive amount of child support established by the Guidelines, the tribunal’s order shall contain written findings of fact stating:
1. The reasons for the change or deviation from the presumptive amount of child support that would have been paid pursuant to the Guidelines; and
2. The amount of child support that would have been required under the Guidelines if the presumptive amount had not been rebutted; and
3. How, in its determination,
(i) Application of the Guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate in the particular case before the tribunal; and
(ii) The best interests of the child for whom support is being determined will be served by deviation from the presumptive guideline amount.
(d) No deviation in the amount of the child support obligation shall be made which seriously impairs the ability of the PRP in the case under consideration to maintain minimally adequate housing, food, and clothing for the children being supported by the order and/or to provide other basic necessities, as determined by the court.
(2) Deviation from the Guidelines may be appropriate for reasons in addition to those previously established in 1240-2-4-.01 – .06 when the tribunal finds it is in the best interest of the child, in accordance with the requirements of paragraph (1) above and the following procedures:
(a) Consideration of Needs of the Children and Income and Expenses of the Parents for Purposes of Deviation.
1. In making its determination regarding a request for deviation pursuant to this chapter, the tribunal shall consider all available income of the parents as defined by this chapter and shall make a written finding that an amount of child support other than the amount calculated under the Guidelines is reasonably necessary to provide for the needs of the minor child or children for whom support is being determined in the case immediately under consideration.
2. If the circumstances that supported the deviation cease to exist, the child support order may be modified to eliminate the deviation irrespective of compliance with the significant variance requirement of 1240-2-4-.05.
(b) In cases where the child is in the legal custody of the Department of Children’s Services, the child protection or foster care agency of another state or territory, or any other child-caring entity, public or private, the tribunal may consider a deviation from the presumptive child support order if the deviation will assist in accomplishing a permanency plan or foster care plan for the child that has a goal of returning the child to the parent(s), and the parent’s need to establish an adequate household or to otherwise adequately prepare herself or himself for the return of the child clearly justifies a deviation for this purpose.
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. To learn more about Tennessee child support laws, read and view:
- Tennessee Child Support & Divorce Law Answers to FAQs
- How to Modify Child Support in Tennessee
- Tennessee Child Support Law Video Series
- Tennessee Child Support Resources
- Top 6 Tennessee Child Support Strategies