Can You Make Too Much Money to Get Child Support?

Can You Make Too Much Money to Get Child Support?Over the years, we have answered plenty of questions about how child support is determined when the non-residential parent has a substantial income. But what if you are the one who makes the money, and your child resides with you 50% of the time or more? Can a primary residential parent make too much money to receive child support?

At Shepherd & Long, PC, we handle cases involving both child support and child custody. Our law firm is educated and up to date on the laws around these types of cases, and we will help answer any questions you may have related to them. Today we want to focus on whether making too much money can stop you from getting child support.

What will the court decide about child support if you make a lot of money?

You may be thinking that you will not get any child support if you make a lot of money and are the primary residential parent. However, this is usually not the case. Under the law, both parents are responsible for the financial support of their children. This support is based on the “income shares” model, which essentially calculates how much money you both make before taxes, adds in any credits and adjustments that are needed, and then determines what the payment should be. (This is a VERY high level explanation of how child support works, so we encourage you to call us if you have questions.)

In short, yes – your co-parent is still going to pay child support. But based on the model, you will be “paying” more than he or she will.

What if I’m only “wealthy” because I remarried someone who is wealthy?

In Tennessee, remarriage does not affect child support. Your spouse’s wealth isn’t factored into the child support payments.

What if my wealth comes from an inheritance?

Inheritances can affect child support in Tennessee. It’s considered “presumptive” income, and you’re supposed to include it in the worksheet. This can get a little tricky, though, so make sure to put it on your list of things to discuss during your consultation with us.

Do I have to pay for college if I make more money than my co-parent?

No parent has to pay for college, unless it’s a part of your agreement. After all, child support typically ends when the child turns 18 (though there are exceptions to every rule). However, if you DO pay for your child’s college education, those payments could count as part of your support.

A court may also order you to pay part of your support into a trust that serves as a college fund. (Nash v Mulle, 846 SW 2d 803, Tenn: Supreme Court 1993) So you may end up paying for college anyway.

What if my ex-spouse doesn’t have an income at all, or is on assistance?

If your ex-spouse is on unemployment, then part of that benefit can be used for child support. So, too, can Social Security benefits. But if your co-parent loses his or her income after the child support order is in place, then the chances are good he or she will look to modify the order, provided there is a change in income of at least 15% (or 7.5% for low-income earners).

If the non-custodial parent becomes ill and loses their job, they most likely are not able to pay the amount of child support that they used to. If they become disabled and find out that they will need to reduce their work hours, they likely cannot pay the full amount of support, either. As such, they can request a modification.. Note this must be done through the court, or you will not be able to legally enforce your order.

But your co-parent can also request a modification if YOU start making more money. If you receive a raise, for example, or take a new job with a higher salary (again, meeting that 15% threshold), your ex may petition to modify the child support order.

A quick note about underemployment/unemployment

There’s a big difference between losing one’s job or getting sick, and purposely being under- or unemployed. Courts don’t take too kindly to parents who shirk their financial responsibility to their kids. If you’re the “breadwinner” parent because your co-parent is willfully/purposely making less money to avoid paying more in child support (as opposed, say, to quitting one’s job to start a new career, or to start a business – two scenarios wherein a judge may order a temporary reduction in support), the court will likely impute the income of your ex; that means he or she will be “assigned” an income by the judge, and that income may be based on what your co-parent used to make.

If you think this is the case, call us.

Does Tennessee make mistakes when calculating the amount of child support?

Everyone makes mistakes; why would the State be any different? But the chances are very good that any errors in support payments are not the “fault” of Tennessee, since everything is guided by worksheets and guidelines. Where things get complicated is when a court deviates (up or down) from the guidelines based on the parents’ income. If you think you’re paying too much or receiving too little, give us a call. We can review your case and the orders, and see if a modification may be applicable.

If you are having issues with your child support case and need assistance, Shepherd & Long, PC is here to assist you. We are a team of experienced family law attorneys in the Maryville, Tennessee, area. No matter what type of problem you are dealing with, we have the experience necessary to help your situation. Call our office or submit our contact form, and a member of our staff will reach out to you as quickly as possible. Serving all of Blount County.