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How can you minimize the amount of child support you pay?

Nobody wants to take money away from a child who needs it, but you also don't want to be stuck paying an unreasonable amount of support simply because you didn't understand the basics of Tennessee's rules on child support and went into negotiations without a plan.

What's the best strategy you can use when approaching child support negotiations?

-- Familiarize yourself with the Tennessee Child Support Handbook and pay careful attention to sections that seem to apply to your situation. For example, the handbook lays out rules for how automatic deductions can be handled and explains how unemployment benefits are counted.

-- Become equally familiar with the state's child support calculator. That can be downloaded and used to get an estimation of your support obligation. You can also run different variables through the system to see if they actually have a significant impact on the child support obligation. That can tell you whether an issue might not be worth any sort of extensive fight. If it only makes a few dollars worth of difference, there's no sense in spending thousands fighting over the point.

-- Do a very careful accounting of the other parent's income. Keep in mind that income that isn't necessarily taxable can still be used for child support obligations. This is particularly important in situations where the other parent is self-employed and his or her net reported income for taxes may be drastically different than his or her gross income due to allowable deductions and tax strategies.

-- Child support is partially calculated based on the number of overnight visits you have with your children. Keep this in mind as you negotiate. You may be able to lower your support obligation significantly, for example, if you pick your children up every Friday evening and then drop them off at school on Monday mornings as opposed to picking them up on Saturday morning and dropping them back off on Sunday evenings.

Remember -- there's nothing wrong with trying to reduce your child support obligation if you're aiming for a realistic figure that will keep your child comfortable and still allow you a livable income of your own. An attorney can help with a child support modification if your situation calls for it.

Source: www.tn.gov, "Tennessee Child Support Handbook," accessed July 05, 2017

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