Why do I have to pay child support if I don’t get to see my child?
The aspect of child support in divorce cases can be contentious. Several factors, like who will pay child support, the amount of money needed to support the child, and if the amount can be modified in future, need to be determined and followed.
Child custody is determined by the court.
It may seem unfair if the parent paying child support is not allowed to meet his / her children by the custodial parent. Though this reason may motivate the paying parent to stop providing child support, it is not the best way to deal with the problem.
The parent must consider getting legal help to enforce his/her visitation rights or reach an agreement with the other parent, if possible.
Let’s elaborate on this and the legal aspects of child support payments in the state of Tennessee.
Is It Important to Continue Paying Child Support Even When Denied Visitation?
It is important to provide uninterrupted child support payments even if the non-custodial parent is not allowed to meet the children by the custodial parent. This is because stopping child support payments without consent from the court is as punishable as not allowing the non-custodial parent to meet the children. The only option for the paying parent is to lodge a complaint against the custodial parent for violating the court order.
The fact is that even if the parent providing child support is behind on the payments, the other parent cannot deny visitation time.
If visitation rights of the non-custodial parent are denied, he/she can document this. This evidence will help him/her obtain potential legal help and ensure that his/her rights are enforced. The parent denying the court-ordered rights may be fined or jailed.
Furthermore, the court may consider modifying the custody arrangement favorably for the non-custodial parent or provide him / her with full custody of the child in extreme scenarios.
What Is the Purpose of Child Support Payments?
According to Tennessee child support guidelines, the purpose of child support payments is to:
- Provide monetary benefits to children living in single-parent families
- Ensure that the parent paying child support is in contact with the child
- Make child support awards equitable while considering the interests of the child and the parties involved
- Ascertain that the economic impact of the divorce on children is minimized
- Enable the custodian and the child to maintain a decent standard of living
How Is Child Support Determined in Tennessee?
The determination of child support begins with providing the information in the child support worksheet.
The Tennessee child support laws include an average amount for the expenses that go into housing, food, and transportation needs of the child. The Basic Child Support Obligation (BCSO) includes expenditures for clothing, entertainment, and the basic expenses related to academics for public school education.
However, BCSO does not include the child’s health insurance premiums, work-related childcare costs, child’s uninsured medical expenses, and special or additional educational expenses due to its variable nature.
The calculation of BCSO is based on the gross income from these sources:
- Fringe benefits
- Severance payments
- Income from interests
- Dividend income
- Trust income
- Disability or retirement benefits
- Benefits from workers’ compensation
- Gifts, prizes, and lottery wins
- Benefits from judgments for personal injuries and awards
- Income from self-employment
- Pension and retirement plans
- Unemployment insurance benefits
- Alimony or maintenance received
How Is Child Support Paid?
The court can order the holding of the child support amount from the paying parent’s wages and transferring it directly to the recipient. Under Income Withholding (IWO), the employer can hold the child support amount from the parent’s salary and send it to the state agency. The state agency then transfers this amount to the custodial parent.
Income withholding is mandatory to provide child support payments. However, if the parties involved agree to an alternative mode of payment, the court should be notified and this needs to be mentioned in the child support order.
Furthermore, enforcing income withholding may not be possible if the paying parent is self-employed. In these cases, the parent can make the payment to the state agency, which is then transferred to the custodial parent. The paying parent has the duty to make timely child support payments even if he/she cannot comply with income withholding.
How Can Child Support Payments Be Documented?
Child support payments can be documented in the following ways:
- Physical evidence of monetary payments made to the child’s caretaker can be in the form of canceled checks or money orders to the parent receiving child support
- Any evidence of child support payment under another child support order can include payment history from the tribunal clerk or child support office
- Evidence of remuneration reduced to a monetary amount approved by the court or agreed by the receiving parent
When Can the Obligation to Pay Child Support Stop?
The obligation to pay child support stops when the child in question turns 18 or completes his/her graduation from high school through regular classes. Furthermore, child support can end earlier if the child quits education, gets a job or marries. However, the continuation of child support is possible if the child is disabled.
What Happens When a Parent Refuses to Pay Child Support?
The laws of Tennessee are stringent when enforcing child support orders and collecting payments. A parent refusing to pay child support may be subject to the following actions by the court:
- Withholding of wages or regular income
- Seizing of bank accounts or assets
- Stopping of federal tax refunds
- Cancellation of driver’s license and other professional licenses
- Reporting child support payment delays to credit agencies, negatively impacting credit scores
- Holding back of personal loan or property
When Can a Child Support Order Be Modified?
According to the Tennessee guidelines of child support, an order can be modified if there is a significant variance between the original amount and the proposed amount in the modified order.
Parents are also eligible for child support modifications in the following scenarios:
- Significant decrease in custodial parent’s income
- Child in question becomes disabled
- The child in custody moves out of or another child moves into the house
- Increase in health insurance expenses
- Extra child care costs
- One of the parents has another child
Temporary changes can be made in case:
- The child in question has a medical emergency
- The parent paying child support cannot pay due to illness or loss of employment
- Any temporary hardship experienced by the receiving parent
The parent requesting the change will have to submit a formal request to modify the child support order. This process will need additional documents and paperwork.
How Are Visitation Rights Exercised in Tennessee?
The state laws of Tennessee consider the best interest of the child when determining custody arrangements. The purpose of these rights is to establish contact between the non-custodial parent and the child.
The custodial parent cannot deny child visitation rights to the non-custodial parent at any point in time. Denial of visitation refers to the custodial parent not allowing the other parent to meet the child. This may be done in cases of sickness of the child, a genuine emergency or other activities scheduled for the child. Regardless of the reason, the other parent must be notified and the visitation time should be compensated. Denying visitation to a co-parent is a violation of the law and punishable.
Even if there is a history of past abuse, the parent is allowed to spend time with the child under supervision. The court may deny visitation rights only if it deems that contact with the non-custodial parent may cause harm to the child.
It should be noted that the custodial parent cannot relocate the child if it interferes with the visitation rights of the non-custodial parent.
How Can Legal Assistance Help?
An experienced attorney can deal with visitation issues effectively. In a few cases, the lawyer may be able to contact the attorney of the custodial parent and solve the issue through a mutual agreement. If this is not possible, the lawyer will use the court system to enforce visitation rights. This solution avoids legal complications and proves better when compared to simply stopping the child support payments.
Furthermore, an attorney can help with:
- Establishing the paternity of a child
- Enforcing child support orders
- Establishing and enforcing orders for child’s medical support, health insurance coverage, and cash medical support
- Modification of child support orders, if required
- Enforcing spousal support orders, if required
Establishing and enforcing child support orders can be complicated. It can also be tempting for the non-custodial paying parent to stop child support payments when he/she is not allowed to meet his/her kids. However, this will only prove imprudent in the long term. Hopefully, this post will help you understand the importance of making timely child support payments. You should also be able to comprehend the consequences of violating the court’s child support orders and the wisdom in seeking legal help to establish visitation rights.