Divorce is an emotional, gut-wrenching process. Many find it odd when they discover the determination of child support is an exercise in accounting.

While there is some room for negotiation for special circumstances, child support determination is so clinical that there are a number of on-line calculators that can help you determine how much you will likely pay.

Tennessee rules

In Tennessee, child support is determined by the amount of income of both parents and the amount of time they spend with the child. While the instructions are complicated, the basic process is to:

Determine each parent’s adjusted gross income. This includes items such as:

  • Wages, salaries, commissions and tips
  • Interest and dividends
  • Capital gains
  • Disability, retirement, unemployment or worker’s compensation payments
  • Alimony

Next, deduct Social Security benefits collected for the child, self-employment taxes and credits for supporting other children. This leaves you with both parent’s adjusted gross income.

Add the adjusted gross income from both parents together. Use this figure in the child support calculator to find your basic support obligation.

Divide the basic support obligation by the amount of time each parent will spend with the child. For example, if the primary caregiver has the child 70 percent of the time and the other parent has the child 30 percent of the time, the secondary caregiver will pay 70 percent of the basic support obligation.

Other factors

This is a simplified version of a complicated process. There are other factors that include if the parents are engaged in joint parenting or have 50-50 custody.

Most custody agreements last until the child is 18 or graduates from high school, whichever is later. Some agreements can include payments for college tuition. If the child has special needs, support payments can continue past age 18.

The minimum payment is usually $100 or a percentage of the non-custodial parent’s income. Even unemployed or workers on disability are required to contribute to their child’s financial needs. If the parent doesn’t pay, the state Child Support Services Enforcement division can place a lien on your property, revoke your driver’s license, seize your bank accounts, intercept state or federal tax refunds and report your actions to various credit bureaus.

Divorce is an emotional, gut-wrenching event. It’s in your best interest to have a calm, experienced legal hand to help guide you through the process.