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Tennessee announces sweeping changes to child support process, biggest since 2005

File photo by Westend61, via Getty Images.
File photo by Westend61, via Getty Images.
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The Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) says it's implementing revised child support guidelines this week that it says "will help align all child support orders with changing family economics, improve the system for both custodial and noncustodial parents, and meet new federal requirements."

These are the first major changes to Tennessee’s child support guidelines since 2005.

Those changes include:

  • Granting noncustodial parents the right to request a modification of their child support order if they are sentenced to or currently serving more than 180 days of incarceration.
  • Allowing credit for health, vision and dental care paid by stepparents in the child support calculations.
  • Creating a minimum child support order of $100 for noncustodial parents in some circumstances.
  • Establishing a self-support reserve for noncustodial parents to ensure they have enough resources for basic needs while fulfilling their child support obligations. Under this change, child support orders in most cases would leave the noncustodial parent with at least $1,150 a month to live on.
  • Allowing a person’s criminal record to be used to determine a parent’s income if there is no other evidence to use in child support calculations.

To ensure these revised guidelines don’t create an influx of new child support modification requests, TDHS is implementing a temporary requirement for case modifications that will remain in effect until November 10th of this year.

TDHS says during this time, there must be a change of circumstances, such as income or number of children, in addition to at least a 15 percent change between the amount of the current support order and the amount of the proposed order for the case modification to be granted.

Parents with an iPhone can now download an app to get an estimate of what their child support order will look like under these new guidelines. You can find the app in the Apple store by searching Child Support Calculator of TN. Parents who already have the Child Support Calculator of TN app will need to update it to reflect the new guidelines.

The TDHS Child Support Program provides services that promote parental responsibility to meet the financial needs of children and their families and provides the following assistance:

  • Location of a child's parent(s) for the purpose of obtaining support or establishing paternity.
  • Establishment of paternity.
  • Establishment and enforcement of child support orders.
  • Establishment and enforcement of medical support.
  • Collection and distribution of payments.
  • Modification of child support orders.
  • Enforcement of spousal support orders, if child support is involved.

TDHS says the Child Support Program also provides support services to help noncustodial parents find the employment and job training they need to meet their child support obligations. TDHS says barriers such as lack of education, job skills, substance abuse, health problems, and transportation hinder the ability to obtain long term employment and develop strong relationships with their children.

“These revised guidelines were created through two years of collaborative work involving parents, attorneys, and our staff who were all committed to improving the child support system and helping build a thriving Tennessee,” said Commissioner Danielle W. Barnes. “Parents depend on child support to create a better life for their children and it’s important for the system to reflect the changing economic realities of today’s families.”

If this all applies to your situation, contact your local child support office if you're are in need of any of these services. You can find an office near you here.

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We are working to learn more about these changes. Depend on us to keep you posted.

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