In Tennessee Child Support Law Deviations Must Be Explained In Writing

Child Support Award Twice Sent Back to the Trial Court for Recalculation – Under Tennessee Child Support Guidelines Any Deviation Must Contain Trial Court’s Reasoning

Anderton v. Anderton – Tennessee child support case law summary discussing the amount of child support determination and deviations.

In Tennessee Child Support Law Deviations Must Be Explained In Writing

In Tennessee Child Support Law Deviations Must Be Explained In Writing

Father appealed the child support award given by the trial court, arguing that it was too high and inconsistent with the Tennessee Child Support Guidelines.  The Appeals court sent the case back to the trial court for further consideration, finding that the child support awarded was too low. Any deviation (upward or downward) from the Child Support Guidelines must be in a written finding by the court.

Family Background

William Anderton (the Father) and Evelyn Anderton (the Mother) were married in 1973 and filed for divorce in 1996, after 23 years of marriage.  Their three children were born  between 1977 and 1981. The Father worked at various jobs during the early years of the marriage and in 1986 became employed by National Health Laboratories, Inc., a company providing laboratory services for physicians.  The Mother, who earned a college degree in 1996, and Father also started an Amway distributorship in 1975 that eventually became a substantial source of household income. The Mother did not have outside employment but rather remained at home to care for the children and the household and to manage their Amway distributorship.

The Chancery Court originally directed the Father to pay $1,731 per month in child support.  The Father appealed this decision and the Court of Appeals sent the case back to the trial court to reconsider the child support award.  The trial court concluded that the Father’s income had decreased significantly, but decided to increase the Father’s child support to $2,000 per month.   It also required the Father pay unpaid child support from previous years.  The Father appealed a second time on the amount of child support .  The Appeals court vacated the child support award and sent the parents back to the trial court for further consideration consistent with the decision by the Court of Appeals.

Original decision of the trial court and First Appeal

The first child support award provided by the trial court required the Father to pay $1,731 per month for three children.  At the time, the Father’s income was over $200,000 a year, including bonuses.  The Court of Appeals ruled that the child support award was inconsistent with the child support guidelines because $1,731 per month for three children is appropriate for an obligor spouse whose gross monthly earnings are $6,000.  The Father’s gross monthly earnings in this case, however, were approximately $17,000.  The Court of Appeals also found that the trial court had given no reason or explanation for deviating from the Guidelines.  Accordingly, the Court of Appeals directed the trial court to reconsider the amount of the Father’s child support obligation in accordance with the child support guidelines.

Second Decision of the Trial court and Second Appeal

The trial court ruled that child support should be in the amount of $2,000.  On appeal by the Father, the Appeals court once again rejected the ruling of the Trial court, and said that for two minor children (one child already turned 18), $2,000 in child support was appropriate for a parent earning $108,000 and yet the Father in this case earned  $143,500.  Again, the Trial court provided no explanation for the deviation from the Guidelines.  The Appeals court found that the Father, since 1995, paid less child support than required according to the Guidelines.  The case was sent back a second time to the Trial court for them to recalculate the support owed based on the Guidelines.

988 S.W.2d 675, Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Middle Section, at Nashville, Feb. 8, 1999.

See original opinion for exact language.  Legal citations omitted.

For more information, see 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.

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