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Enforcing Child Support in Tennessee

| Mar 8, 2022 | Child Support

When things don’t work out between two people, it can be a messy situation. That situation only gets messier and more complicated if children are involved, as now several additional factors must be considered throughout your divorce. Not only are you separating your life from this other person, but both of you must work out a way to still raise your children in the best, healthiest way possible for them. Parents are never divorcing their children, after all. They must still support and care for them regardless of their marital status.

From this knowledge comes the idea of child support, where one divorced parent pays the other a sum of money every month specifically for the needs of their children. The parent getting paid is often the one with primary custody, but it is important to note that support and custody are two separate things that work in different ways. That being said, both child custody and child support can be high-tension topics, and it can sometimes take more than a court order to get one ex-spouse to follow their obligations.

In the end, it is all about the children. No law is created for the sole purpose of “stealing” money or taking kids just to hurt newly-divorced individuals; they are created to protect children above everything else. Sometimes, this can be a challenge for parents, who think they are being unfairly targeted, and it can lead them to become resistant or obstinate. When that happens, there are laws and processes in place to enforce any agreements put in place to protect those children.

How is child support established in Blount County?

Before understanding how those enforcement methods can help, it is important to understand exactly how all Tennessee courts treat child support, and how those decisions are made for your family. Each parent is expected to contribute to their child(ren)’s financial support, and how much that contribution is comes from the help of an income share model. The Tennessee Department of Human Services uses this model by first considering your combined gross income before taxes:

  • All salaries, wages, tips, commissions, or any other fees, including any unemployment or workers’ compensation if applicable
  • Any bonuses or financial gifts
  • Trust funds
  • Annuities
  • Pensions, severance pay, and/or retirement funds
  • Dividends
  • Alimony payments (if applicable)

After this is completed, they will calculate how much each parent is responsible for. If one parent is more financially stable than the other, that will be the parent paying the other. Depending on the number of children and the monetary capabilities of each parent, someone paying child support could owe anywhere from $150 a month to thousands of dollars. That person could feel like they cannot afford — or should not have to afford — their child support charges each month and resist or refuse to pay and, if you are the one relying on those payments to care for your children, it can be a big extra stressor you do not need. The good news is you do have options in the state of Tennessee.

Using Tennessee family court when your ex won’t pay

In our beautiful state, you do not necessarily need an attorney to get a child support order (though it is highly recommended). The Tennessee Division of Child Support Services is a public service for everything from establishing paternity to creating a child support order to enforcing those payments. If the parent responsible for making child support payments is neglecting or refusing to do so, both the DCSS and state family courts have methods for changing their mind:

  • Seizing bank and/or investment assets
  • Withholding wages and other income
  • Revoking drivers’ and other professional licenses
  • Intercepting federal tax refunds
  • Reporting the outstanding debt to credit agencies (which hurts the credit score)
  • Imposing a lien against personal property or their home

If you do not work with the DCSS, which can file enforcement actions on your behalf, you will want to work with a family law attorney to talk the courts into action. While you are allowed to represent yourself, it is recommended you work with an order enforcement attorney who can make sure nothing is brushed aside or skipped over in a way that compromises your case. Violating child support orders is not okay, and it is not legal. If the court finds your ex in violation of their order, they would be held in contempt of court, which will not only force them to pay your attorney’s fees for you, but will also further fine them and could even land them behind bars for six months.

Regardless of what specific punishment they end up with, the most important thing is you get the payments you are owed for your children. You were ordered to receive those payments in the first place because the court found your child in need of them during your divorce, and that is not something your ex can or should get away with shirking, no matter what their reasoning may be. Do not let them get away with it, no matter how much the amount is or how intimidating the process may be. Attorneys exist to help you and represent you through just these situations.

At Shepherd & Long, our Maryville child support attorneys work tirelessly on behalf of our clients to make sure they are treated and compensated fairly and generously. We have years of experience helping newly-single parents throughout East Tennessee and Blount County. To learn more, call us today at 865-383-3118 or use our contact form.