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Significant variance mandatory for child support modification

As many separated Tennessee parents would agree, life's changing circumstances sometimes calls for modification in existing child support or child custody orders. The modifications can be sought by custodial parents who feel that the monthly child support payments are inadequate to cover the child's expenses. Similarly, non-custodial parents may also want modifications of child support orders due to factors such as relocation, job changes or if job loss makes the existing child support a burden.

Such parents should know the Tennessee Department of Human Services has set clear guidelines as to how a parent can seek child support modification, which are mentioned in Section 1240-2-4-.05 of the state child support guidelines. According to these guidelines, all modifications in Tennessee are calculated under the income shares guidelines. Courts, however, need to be convinced that there is a significant variance in circumstances before allowing a modification. How the courts define significant variance depends primarily on when the present child support order was established or when the last modification to the child support took place.

All child support orders established or modified before January 18, 2005, were determined based on flat percentage guidelines. For those cases, a significant variance would mean:

  • A change of at least 15 percent in the income of the non-custodial parent
  • A change in the number of children for whom the non-custodial parent is responsible
  • Both parents mutually agreeing on a modification of child support
  • At least a 15 percent change between the existing child support order and the proposed modification of the basic child support obligation
  • At least a 7.5 percent change between the existing child support order and the proposed modification of the basic child support obligation, if it is determined that the non-custodial parent falls in the low income group.

For child support orders issued after January 18, 2005 per the income shares guidelines, there needs to be at least a 15 percent change between the existing order and the proposed modification. If the non-custodial parent falls in the low-income group, the change needs to be 7.5 percent between the existing order and the proposed modification.

Source: State.TN.us, "Modification of Child Support Orders," Accessed on Sept. 24, 2014

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