In Tennessee Child Support Law, Courts Can Prorate as Children Turn 18

Tennessee child support law on proration of child support in Tennessee family law from the Supreme Court of Tennessee.

Sarah Avalon Myatt Clinard (Brown) vs. James Edward Clinard – Tennessee child support law – proration as children grow up

With three children in common, Sarah Clinard Brown and James Edward Clinard were divorced in 1969.  The Mother was awarded custody, and the Father was directed to pay $60 per week as child support.  Less than a year later, the Father began paying $25 per week, prorated for a child having turned 18.  The Mother accepted this $25 per week for 15-years, until the youngest child turned 18-years of age.  No court cases were filed during the entire of the children’s minority.

Then, in 1993, eight years after the youngest child was emancipated, the Mother filed a petition to reduce child support arrearages to a judgment, interest, and for contempt.  The Father conceded he owed arrears, but disputed the amount.

Generally, Tennessee child support awards are pro-rated once the first child is emancipated.  For this Father, it meant that he owed the $60 per week until the first child was emancipated and he was then entitled to a downward modification of his child support obligation.  The trial court computation was affirmed, and the Father won the decision of a lower child support arrears judgment than was sought by the Mother.

The second issue considered by the courts was whether the Father could be held in contempt due to the child support arrears.  The Supreme Court upheld its earlier ruling that it was not permissible to find a parent in contempt for child support arrears reduced to a judgment after a child is emancipated, where such circumstances occurred prior to July 1, 1994.  (Cases after 1994 have the enforcement benefit of Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-5-101(k), allowing arrearage enforcement by contempt.)

The third issue had to do with the computation of interest on the arrears owed, which the court set at 10% per annum, computed from the date of the decision.

No. 01-S-01-9502-CV-00021 (Tenn. 1995).

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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