Including or Excluding Bonuses for Child Support Awards in Tennessee Child Support
Simmons v. Simmons – Tennessee Court of Appeals case summary on income determination for child support.
Allison Lyn Simmons and Richard Lee Simmons were married for seven years and had three children together. The children were six, five, and two years old at the time of the divorce hearing. The Father and Mother previously both worked as flight attendants when they were married, but the Father was the sole provider since the first year of marriage. During the marriage the parents went deeply into debt, in part due to the Mother’s spending, and filed for bankruptcy.
The trial court awarded the Mother custody of the children and the Father was ordered to pay child support in the amount of $1,900 per month. The Father appealed this decision, and argued that the child support obligation (together with the alimony award) constituted a punitive award against him because it represented more than sixty-seven (67%) percent of his gross income. The Mother appealed the decision of the lower court and argued that the Father’s income was miscalculated and should have been higher, thus obligating him to pay more child support. She further argued that the Federal tax deduction given for two of their children should have gone to her, the custodial parent.
In this case, the Mother and Father presented two very different arguments on the amount of money the Father earned annually. According to the evidence presented to the trial court, including IRS form W-2 reports and pay check stubs, the Father earned approximately $80,000 in 2004. This income, however, was comprised of a large, one-time bonus. The trial court also found that this one-time bonus was actually back pay owed to the husband. The trial court included the bonus as part of the Father’s income but discounted the bonus by seventy-five percent because it was actually for back pay. Neither court raised this issue but it might be argued that if indeed the bonus was back pay, it was not technically a bonus and should have been calculated as salary.
Both the Mother and the Father appealed the trial court’s finding. The Father argued that the trial made a mistake by including the bonus at all because it was non-recurring. In this case, his child support obligation should have been lower. The Mother, on the other hand, contended that all of the one-time bonus should have been included in determining the Father’s income for 2004.
On appeal, the court determined that the issues in dispute between the parties were “properly considered by the trial court.” The acceptable standard for review of facts by an appeals court is that the findings of fact by the lower court are correct unless other evidence is presented that supports facts that are more convincing than the initial evidence. In this case, the Appeals court concluded that the evidence “does not preponderate again the trial judge’s finding” that the Father’s income was $80,000 in 2004. For this reason, this was no reason to modify the child support award. The Court of Appeals further held that since the Father paid child support for all three children, there was no error in awarding him the Federal tax deduction for two of those children.
2006 WL 236904, Court of Appeals of Tennessee, January 31, 2006.
See original opinion for exact language. Legal citations omitted.
For more information, see Commissions and Bonuses as Income Under Tennessee Child Support Laws and Tennessee Child Support Answers to FAQ’s. For legal updates, news, analysis, and commentary, visit our Tennessee Family Law Blog and its Child Support category. A Memphis child support attorney from the Miles Mason Family Law Group can help you with Tennessee child support issues including setting or modifying child support. To schedule your confidential consultation about Tennessee child support, call us today at (901) 683-1850.