Special Education Needs Can Require Private School Tuition in Tenn.

Special Education Needs Can Require Private School Tuition & Tennessee Mother Not Required to Consult with Father

Special Education Needs Can Require Private School Tuition & Tennessee Mother Not Required to Consult with Father

Special Education Needs Can Require Private School Tuition & Tennessee Mother Not Required to Consult with Father

Judi Richardson vs. George Kevin Spanos – Special Education and Private School Tuition in Tennessee Child Support Law

This case stands for the principle that a primary residential parent may unilaterally seek the special education services a child needs, including enrollment in a private school, and compel the other parent to provide the necessary financial support, which may be in addition to the standard child support obligation.

The child at the center of this case was an 11-year old boy named Lewis, who had special education needs.  His Father, Dr. George Kevin Spanos, was a physician, who had little to do with his son.  The Court of Appeals noted that at the time of trial, the Father had not visited Lewis for four years, and that their last visit was an hour spent at a bowling alley. Continue reading


Tennessee Courts Can Order Private School Tuition as Child Support

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

Private Agreement Between Parents For TN Child Support Not Enforceable

Tennessee child support law from the Supreme Court of Tennessee.

Betty Berryhill vs. Charles Thomas Rhodes – Tennessee child support and private agreements not enforceable by paying parent

Questions arose in this case around notions of whether parents can enter into private agreements outside of the Tennessee “Child Support Guidelines.” The Supreme Court firmly ruled that once parents enter the court system, government statues and court precedents about child support will override private agreements found to be inadequate in supporting children.

The factual history of this case appears to have much impact upon the decision of the Supreme Court, as the decision was written with a pointed sympathy towards the Mother.

The story of the Parties began back in 1975 or 1976 when the Mother, Betty Berryhill, was a patient of the Father, a psychiatrist named Dr. Charles T. Rhodes.  A sexual relationship developed, and the Parties had one child, Anika, in 1977.  The Father paid the uninsured maternity expenses and started paying the Mother $200 per month.  Approximately 6 months later, the Father increased the payment to $300 per month.  Any requests by the Mother for an increase in child support were refused. Continue reading