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Tennessee Court Records

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What is Child Support, and When does it Occur in Tennessee?

The family law in Tennessee recognizes that children are naturally reliant on parents until maturity. Thus, the state judiciary and the Department of Human Services ensure that estranged parents contribute meaningfully to a child’s need through the Child Support Program. Records of these cases are mostly available to the public unless sealed by court order or statute.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching more straightforward, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide: 

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile 
  • The location or assumed location of the document or person involved 

Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party websites may vary. 

What is Tennessee Child Support? 

Child support is a court decree of financial commitment, binding spouses embroiled in a dissolution proceeding, and compelling those spouses to arrange for the suitable support and maintenance of children (Tenn. Code Ann. § 36–5–101)..

The parent that has primary custody of a minor is known as the custodial parent or receiving partner. He/she typically contributes a lesser amount of child support. The other parent shares custody via parenting time and is known as the non-custodial parent or paying partner. Generally, the non-custodial parent makes more contribution to child support in this state.

What Does Child Support Cover in Tennessee?

Child support payments must suffice for the support and maintenance of a child in Tennessee. Ergo, the payable amount must cover the necessary expenses incurred in training a healthy child in Tennessee. These include:

  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Housing
  • Educational costs
  • Health insurance
  • Dental/Vision insurance
  • Routine uninsured medical expenses
  • Uninsured extraordinary expenses
  • Childcare costs
  • Travel expenses
  • Extracurricular activities

What is the Average Child Support Payment in Tennessee?

It depends. Tennessee uses an income shares model to calculate the payable amount for child support based on the Child Support Guidelines. Tennessee regularly reviews these guidelines to ensure equitable payment that reflects the current economic conditions of the state.   

The basic tenet is that a child should receive the kind of support he/she would receive regardless of the relationship between parents. Interested persons may use the calculator and worksheet to estimate the payable amount.

Meanwhile, parents may reach a mutual agreement regarding the payable amount while preparing the settlement agreement. Nevertheless, the amount must not be less than the estimate prepared with the worksheet, and the settlement agreement is subject to review before the court grants a final decree of divorce. Likewise, where parents fail to reach a mediated agreement, the law vests the presiding judge with the power to decide the payable amount for child support. The court shall follow the child support guidelines in issuing this order.

How Do I Apply for Child Support in Tennessee?

The Department of Human Services provides systematic instructions for parents who wish to apply for child support. Generally, most people can apply online, but recipients of Families First/TANF benefits do not need to apply. The Department of Human Services automatically creates and refers the application to the local child support office. The local office will then contact the parent through the agent assigned to the case. Regardless, persons who wish to submit an application in person, fax, or via mail must visit the local child support office in the county of residence. All applicants for child support services must provide these documents and information.

Note that an annual service fee of $35.00 applies to the application for child support services, but payment depends on benefits status. A family that is not under the Families First/TANF benefits must pay an annual fee of $35.00 for child support services. The Department of Human Services defers the payment until after the family receives $550 in child support payments. Recipients of the Families First/TANF benefits need not pay the annual fee of $35.00.

How Do I Get Out of Paying Child Support in Tennessee?

Tennessee allows custodial and non-custodial parents to request a modification to child support payments. The concerned parent may submit a petition to the Department of Human Services at any time. However, the petition must cite at least one significant circumstance that has necessitated adjustment.

These circumstances include, but are not limited to:

  • The addition of a child for whom the party is legally responsible, who did not factor on the most recent credit worksheet;
  • The emancipation or death of a qualified child;
  • The qualified child has become disabled;
  • A significant change in income of either party, ranging from job loss to change in employment, inheritance, and lottery winnings;

Upon submitting the request for review, the Department of Human Services shall mail both parties an Affidavit of Income and Expenses (see sample).. Each recipient must send the completed affidavit to the local child support office in a self-addressed stamped envelope. The Department shall then use the most recent Child Support Guidelines to review the request. In some cases, the request for review shall be subject to judicial review. 

The Department of Human Services provides more information on this brochure. Note that the content of this section does not replace professional advice from an experienced family lawyer.

What is Back Child Support in Tennessee?  

Back child support is the payable amount that a non-custodial parent missed or refused to pay, even after an effective court order for child support. In Tennessee, this is called past-due child support.

Note that back child support is different from retroactive child support, which refers to a claim for child expenses that a custodial parent incurred from birth up to the application date.

Tennessee recognizes retroactive child support and makes provisions for enforcing this order in Tenn. Code Ann. § 36–2–311.

How Do I Get Back Child Support Paid in Tennessee?

The starting place is submitting a complaint to the Department of Human Services at the local child support office. The Department typically uses administrative enforcement tools and only involves the court when administrative mechanisms are ineffective.

Upon submitting a complaint for contempt, the Department uses mechanisms such as income withholding, suspension of driver’s license, federal tax offset program, levies, and liens. In 2020, Tennessee used the first round of stimulus checks to offset the back child support for defaulting parents. However, Congress exempted the second round of stimulus from the Treasury Offset Program (TOP).  

Is there a Tennessee Statute of Limitations on Child Support?

No. Per Tenn. Code Ann. § 36–2–321, child support payment in Tennessee is not subject to time limitation.

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