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Understanding your child support obligations in Tennessee

Getting divorced and no longer having full-time interactions with your children can be heartbreaking. The less you see your children, the more frustrating the process can seem, especially if a substantial portion of your income is going to child support. You may have already taken steps to see if you were ordered to pay too much in child support. The more you make, the more you often end up paying. Having your visitation denied or reduced may have you feeling angry. Now you may be wondering if you could stop paying until you see your child.

While it may feel tempting to refuse to pay when you can't see your kid, doing so could create a host of issues for you. No matter how frustrated you may feel, your best option is typically to continue paying child support and ask for assistance in having your visitation and custody rights enforced.

Both visitation and child support come from court orders

The court uses court orders to issue both child support orders and visitation and custody arrangements, even temporary ones during divorce. Failing to comply could leave you in contempt of court and subject to penalties. Your wages could get garnished. The courts could order you to perform community service, such as picking up trash. In some cases, the courts could issue an arrest warrant or refuse to award a license, like a drivers license or a hunting license to a parent who isn't complying with support orders.

Violation of visitation rights can also result in consequences. Documenting the refused or shortened visitation sessions can help you during your custody case in family court. Your spouse's refusal to comply with court orders and the decision to put a personal conflict above the best interests of your children could impact the court's custody decision. However, if you're failing to pay child support during that time, that could also reflect very poorly on you.

You can have the amount corrected when needs or income change

The state provides both worksheets and calculators to help you estimate the appropriate amount of child support. Sometimes, the amount initially ordered reflects inaccurate or incomplete information. Maybe your income has changed or a previous medical special need of your child has been resolved. When you have reason to believe that your support level is too high given the specifics of your situation, you can request a hearing to adjust your support amount.

In the meantime, you should continue to pay your ordered support in full. The most important thing to remember about your obligations under Tennessee law is that you are obligated to provide for your children, regardless of the custody situation. Everything else can be addressed in due time so long as you comply with the court orders in the meantime.

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