Understanding Child Support

As a lifelong Memphian, I have always considered Olive Branch and the surrounding areas in DeSoto county just as much a part of the Memphis metro area as Germantown or Collierville. However, for a person involved in a child support dispute, the differences in the child support laws in Tennessee and Mississippi are significant.

Tennessee guidelines

Tennessee’s child support guidelines require the courts to consider both the mother and father’s incomes when calculating child support. Also taken into account are:
•     the number of days each parent spends with the child(ren)
•     health insurance
•     day care expenses
•     other dependent children living with a parent, and
•     extraordinary or special expenses (private school tuition, expenses for             children with certain special needs, etc.).  
The laws in Tennessee require a parent paying child support to pay until their child reaches age 18 or graduates from high school, whichever occurs last. A parent’s gross income includes income from all sources, including bonuses, overtime, trust income, etc. Lastly, courts can also impute income to parents who do not work but have the ability to work or to those who are voluntarily underemployed.

Mississippi guidelines

In contrast, Mississippi laws are much more traditional and simply require the parent paying child support to pay a flat percentage of their adjusted gross income. There is generally no consideration of the receiving parent’s income, or lack thereof. For example, the supporting parent is required to pay 14 percent of their adjusted gross income if they have one child, 20 percent if they have two children, and so on. There is an assumption that the above percentages are correct for persons with an adjusted yearly income between $5,000 and $50,000.          For parents not in that income range, the court must make specific findings of fact as to why they are ordering a certain amount of support. The obligation to pay child support in Mississippi continues until a child reaches age 21.  

Modifying child support

Both states have certain standards when a parent wants to modify child support. In Tennessee, a parent must prove there’s been a significant variance since the entry of the last child support order to be able to modify child support.  The significant variance requires the new child support amount, when applying the current numbers, to change by 15 percent either up or down.  

Therefore, if a parent paying child support receives a raise, the child support will not necessarily increase. In comparison, Mississippi courts require a parent prove that there’s been a substantial and material change in circumstances of the child or parents since the last order awarding support. The courts consider several factors in determining whether there has been a material change. One example of a material change is a parent who has lost a job through no fault of his or her own and simply can no longer afford to pay support at the level paid  before. As in Tennessee, the modification is not automatic and can be complex in certain circumstances, particularly if a parent owns a small business.

As you can see, it is important to understand the differences in the child support laws in the two jurisdictions. If you need assistance with a child support matter or any other family law issue in Tennessee or Mississippi, it is important you consult with an experienced family law attorney to guide you through the process.

Founded by Justin K. Thomas, the Thomas Family Law Firm, PLC focuses on family law in Tennessee and Mississippi. For more information, call (901) 537-0010 or visit thomasfamilylaw.net.

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