As discussed before on this blog, child support is a payment made from a non-custodial parent to a custodial parent to cover necessary expenses in raising the child. The payment is based on the amount of time each parent spends with the child and the respective incomes of the parents, with some other factors (daycare, insurance, etc.) included. Essentially, the goal is for each parent to pay the same percentage of income for the percentage of time that the other parent has the child.
Most people assume that the obligation to pay ends when the child turns eighteen, and this is often the case. In fact, courts in Tennessee do not have the authority to order child support past that age under most situations. An agreement between the parties (such as is often entered pursuant to a divorce) requiring support after the child or children reach the age of eighteen is enforceable as a contract, however. Most often these provisions are put in place to require support so long as the child or children are enrolled in school or in situations wherein the child or children have a disability or medical problem reasonably requiring parental support past the age of eighteen.
Of course, all that was assuming that child support was paid as ordered promptly. Any child support payments that are not made are neither forgotten nor forgiven. In fact, these unmade payments – arrearages – accumulate interest and can very quickly reach amounts in excess of $10,000 or more for a monthly obligation of $200. Courts in Tennessee have no authority to modify the amount of support owed retroactively, which means that courts in Tennessee have no authority to forgive or reduce arrearage amounts. The amount of child support ordered by the court must be paid eventually.
Child support can be a confusing issue and you should not risk racking up thousands of dollars due. If you are involved in a situation involving child support payments or have been charged with civil contempt for failure to pay child support, you should consult an attorney. For more information on child support and other family law issues, click here.