Is Private School Tuition an Extraordinary Educational Expense in Tennessee Child Support Law?
Barnett v. Barnett – Supreme Court of Tennessee decides private school tuition can be awarded as child support.
Paula Lynn Barnett (the Mother) and Robert McAlister Barnett, III (the Father) were divorced in 1986 after a fourteen-year marriage. At the time of the divorce, the parties’ son, Joshua, was three years old and their daughter, Katie, was an infant. The divorce decree required the Father to pay $2,167 per month in child support for both children. In March, 1996, Ms. Barnett filed a petition to modify the child support award. Based on the Father’s gross income of $209,206, the trial court set child support at $3,700 per month but ordered the Mother to pay private school tuition from that support award. The trial court found that the son’s tuition at a private school, was an extraordinary educational expense but ruled that the tuition be paid by the Mother from the $3,000 monthly child support. Continue reading →
The parties in this case are Brendi Kaplan (“Mother”) and John A. Bugalla (“Father”). The parties were married for over 10 years and have 2 children. At the time of divorce, Mother was an attorney making $87,000 per year and Father was an executive at Aon making between $279,000 and $350,000 per year. Father’s initial child support payment was set at $4,000 per month in May 2002. This payment did not include private school tuition as Mother planned on moving with children and enrolling them in public school. Mother’s plans to move did not work out and Mother sought an increase in child support to pay for the children’s private school education in September 2002. In 2003, the trial court denied Mother’s request for private school tuition. Mother appealed the decision and was again denied the private school tuition. In 2005, Mother sought a grant of certiorari. The Supreme Court heard this case on October 5, 2005. The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the trial court, denying Mother’s request for private school tuition, and remanded it back to the trial court. Continue reading →