TN Dad Loses $75K/Yr Job, Works @ Starbucks & Jailed for Child Support

Tennessee law case summary on child support, arrearages, contempt, and voluntary unemployment in Tennessee divorce and family law from the Tennessee Court of Appeals.

Teresa Ann Barrett Goodman v Jeffery Wayne Goodman – Child Support Arrearage, Contempt, and Willful Unemployment

The Mother, Teresa Goodman filed for divorce on January 18, 2008 from the Husband, Jeffery Goodman. The couple’s marriage lasted 16 years and, at the time of the divorce, they had a four minor children. The Father was a licensed real estate broker working for Prudential Collins-Maury. Right before the divorce was filed, he took a position with America’s Home Place because the position offered a $75,000 per year salary rather than commission.

In February of 2008, the Mother filed a motion for alimony and child support. The Father agreed to pay $1,747 per month in child support retroactive, which was based on the Father’s income of $75,000 per year. In June of 2008, the Father lost this job after criticizing a supervisor who was allegedly stealing from others. The Father was unemployed but returned to his previous position after a period of time. At that point, he was earning $2,000 per month plus a bonus for selling or renting a home. He stated he was unable to make the required payments as a result.

In July of 2008, the Mother filed a petition for scire facias and the Father was ordered to pay $8652 in child support arrearage. The Father was jailed pending a purge payment, which was paid. The Mother stated that the Father missed additional payments and filed a motion in March of 2009. The court required the Father to pay arrearage of $13,910 including the previous judgment. In June of 2009, the Father filed a petition to modify this temporary child support citing a reduction of income. The divorce refereed motioned in may of 2010 that the Father’s income was $50,000 per year and ordered him to pay child support of $1427 per month, retroactive to June of 2009. The Father appealed this ruling.

In March of 2010, the Mother filed a third petition against the Father. In June of 2010, the court ordered the Father to pay $22,045. The Father was incarcerated as a result pending a purge payment of $7,500. This was reduced to $5,000, which was paid. Due to this incarceration, the Father was terminated from his position as of June 25, 2010.

The Father, while working for Prudential Collins-Maury was also working at Starbucks earning $7.35 per hour. After his termination, he worked 38 to 40 hours per week at Starbucks and eventually earned $8.95 an hour after being promoted and trained to become a store manager. The Father stated he was unable to make child support payments as result of his decreased income.

The divorce complaint was heard in July of 2011. The Father submitted that his income was $1,568.10 per month and proposed that his child support obligation based on the Mother’s relative income was $18.00 per month. The Mother claimed that the Father did not take employment that would have allowed him to make substantially more than he was making at Starbucks.

The Trial court found that the Father’s earning capacity was $50,000 per year and ordered him to pay child support arrearage of $32,225. The Father appealed this decision. The appeals court noted that the father’s income was not disputed at the time of the trial since it was about $19,000 per year. When promoted to a store manager, his income potential would be $42,000. The appeals court noted that the trial court did not state the Father was willfully underemployed and that the trial court did not make any specific findings to prove this. As a result, the appeals court ruled that the decision to impute the Father’s income was an error.

The Father also appealed the decision on the arrearage stating that it was based on the mistaken $50,000 income. The appeals court ruled that the divorce referee did not provide evidence of its decision and no record or transcript of the hearing was made. It, therefore, must affirm the trial court’s decision assuming facts were present for such a decision.

No. W2011-01971-COA-R3-CV – Filed May 7, 2012.

See original opinion for exact language.  Legal citations omitted.

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


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