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Does your support obligation change during summer vacation?

What happens to your support obligation when your child ends up staying with you for the entire summer vacation?

If you're paying child support to your child's other parent because he or she normally has physical custody the majority of the time and you've generally only covered a couple weekends out of each month and special occasions, summer can be an unpleasant double whammy to your pocketbook.

Make that a triple whammy if you decide to actually take a vacation. Not only are you paying support to someone else for the child that's actually living with you, you're paying the actual costs associated with your child's care out of your own pocket all over again in the form of food, increased utility bills, clothing and other expenses. If you take your child on vacation, that's another set of expenses above the norm.

There are essentially two different ways that you can legally approach this situation.

If you expect this to happen each year, you can ask the court to factor all the overnight visits you are going to have over the course of the year into your monthly support payment from the very start.

That means you'll still pay support during the summer when your child is with you, but that time will be factored into the overall support calculations, ultimately lowering your monthly payments.

Alternately, if the situation wasn't expected, you may ask the court for a modification of support. You may be able to request an abatement, or temporary halt, to the payments during the time your child is living with you. Unfortunately, you may not be able to get an abatement for the first month your child is in your physical custody because the court has to determine that there is a significant change in circumstances to warrant the modification.

A third option is to make a private agreement with your ex-spouse to have the support money simply returned to you while your child is in your care. However, this is generally not a good idea -- any changes that take place without the court's prior approval have the potential to create problems. Keep in mind that child support is a court order -- if you aren't following the order, you're breaking the law.

An attorney can provide more information on how to handle post-divorce child support modifications.

Source: FindLaw, "Tennessee Child Support Guidelines," accessed June 09, 2017

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