Even under the best of circumstances, child support can be an… issue. Of course you want what’s best for your child, and of course you don’t begrudge your child anything – but does your ex-spouse really need all that money for school supplies and doctors’ co-pays?
I get it, I do. In my time as a divorce lawyer here in Maryville, I’ve seen a lot of folks become really uncomfortable during the child support discussion, because they’re afraid they’re going to look like bad parents if they don’t agree to fork over their entire paycheck for their kids. But on the other hand, they need a roof over their heads and food in fridge, too. So how can you reconcile your own needs with your child’s needs and not come out broke – or feeling like a bad parent?
The first thing you need to know is that a lot of information goes into calculating child support; your gross salary is only one factor in the process. A judge will also look at:
- Your parenting plan, to determine how much parenting time you’ll have with your child
- How many other children you might have, who you also need to support
- The cost of healthcare, including ongoing medications and treatments that you and/or your child might need, and insurance costs
- Daycare costs, if applicable
Parents are supposed to share these costs between them, so it’s not as though you (as the non-residential parent) will have to pay for all of this on your own. Taking an honest look at these types of expenses is one of the goals of a successful mediation session (which is requires in contested divorces in Tennessee), but it must also be addressed if you and your spouse create your mutually agreed-up Marital Dissolution Agreement. As a family law attorney, helping you through this part of the process is part of my job, so you’ll have the answers you need from the start.
Other information you should know
There are a few other things about the law that a lot of my clients don’t realize when they start the divorce process. For example: the day you and your spouse physically separate, child support starts to accrue. This means that whomever pays the child support once the divorce is finalized will be required to submit back payments for the months between the separation and the final decree. There’s interest tacked onto those payments, too.
Here’s another important thing that many people don’t know: if you purposely lose your job, or are underemployed because you think that will help lessen your payments, the courts can impute income. This means that the judge will assign you a set income and then assign the payments based on that. The judge can impute your income at minimum wage, but he or she could also impute your income at the average wage in Tennessee. That’s just over $37,000 a year if you are a man, and just over $28,000 if you are a woman. If the judge chooses to impute at the average wage, you will have a much higher obligation than you will if he or she imputes at the minimum wage. If you lose your job or become underemployed through no fault of your own, however, you can file a request for the judge to modify your child support payments.
Finally, keep in mind that child support payments are the law. If your spouse fails to pay, he or she can be found in contempt. A judge can garnish your spouse’s wages, throw him or her in jail, even revoke his or her driver’s license. This is why it is crucial that you speak to a divorce attorney if an issue arises where you may not be able to meet your monthly support payments. I help folks who find themselves unable to pay because a series of unfortunate events (or sometimes, just one really awful event) has left them bereft of funds. I know you’re not trying to hurt your child, and I do whatever is within my means under the law to ensure that you and your kids are protected.
If you have need of a Maryville divorce attorney who can help you through the child support process, or the modification of an existing order, please contact me to learn more. At my law firm – Kevin W. Shepherd, Attorney at Law – we help people just like you when you need it the mos