Tennessee’s child support guidelines calculate child support based on how much income both parents earn and how much time the child spends with each parent. But what happens when the parent who is paying child support has questions about the way in which the receiving parent is spending the child support payments? Is the parent who receives child support payments obligated to account for how he or she spends the money?
The simple answer is, no. The Tennessee family court does not require that the parent who is receiving child support account for how they spend the money – but there is a good reason for this. In order to require the primary residential parent to account for how they spend the child support funds they receive, the court would have to require parents to keep a detailed accounting of their spending, and then they would have to have the staff to receive and process the paperwork each month.
You might not be surprised at how often we get asked whether the parent receiving child support is required to account for how they spend it. For example: let’s say the mother is the primary residential parent and the father has visitation, it is the father who is paying child support to the mother. It’s fairly common for the father to want to see a list of expenses if he thinks his child is going without, while his ex-wife has a new designer handbag, or posts some pictures of herself out for a night with the girls. (It’s not limited to dads, either; the mothers we work with often want to see some accountability when the roles are reversed.)
Coming to an agreement about how child support payments will be spent
Child support payments are intended to pay for some of the expenses of raising a child, and the parent who is receiving the payments is supposed to use the money for that purpose. The truth is, though, that merely suspecting your ex is misusing your child support payments isn’t enough to petition for modification. Unless you can prove that your child is being neglected or abused, or that your ex is violating a specific part of the agreement wherein he or she is supposed to account for expenses (but has not), the Court is likely to deny your petition.
However, if you’re paying child support payments regularly and in full, and then also shouldering additional expenses – say, all of the costs for your kids to play various sports and join in different extracurricular activities, or all of the airline costs (if one of you lives out-of-state or far away) so your child can make multiple trips, or something along those lines – the judge may order a “downward deviation.” All this means is that the judge is deviating from the standard guidelines for child support, and lowering the amount of support you have to pay. You should know that downward deviations aren’t that common, though, so you don’t want to enter into an agreement thinking that you can always have your payments lowered later. Child support helps your kids, and your kids’ best interests are the Court’s main concern.
If you believe your child’s welfare is being neglected, Shepherd & Associates, P.C. can help. To schedule a consultation time with an experienced Maryville divorce lawyer, please call 865.225.9655, or fill out our contact form.