The Kennedy Law Firm, PLLC - Family Law

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How Is Child Support Calculated?

The Clarksville child support lawyers at the Kennedy Law Firm, PLLC know Tennessee and Kentucky law. We closely review your finances and those of your spouse to determine the likely results of your case based on your state’s guidelines. We are also adept at uncovering income your former spouse or partner is hiding and identifying special circumstances that may justify a departure from the guidelines.

With our extensive experience and commitment to our clients in Clarksville, our attorneys can help you obtain the resources you need for the welfare of your children.

How child support works

Child support is generally ordered by the court when a child lives with only one of the parents. All states, including Tennessee and Kentucky, have guidelines by which courts determine child support. These guidelines usually take into account one or both parents’ net monthly income and may also address other domestic obligations, such as alimony. Child support guidelines are not an exact method of calculating child support in every situation, and parties can seek exceptions to the guideline amount due to special circumstances:

  • High income disparity between parents
  • Extraordinary expenses and needs
  • Healthcare costs
  • Overnights spent with the child

While federal law requires each state to establish child support guidelines, it does not dictate the particular formula he or she must use. As a result, Kentucky and Tennessee have adopted two very different sets of child support guidelines. Our attorneys at the Kennedy Law Firm, PLLC are proficient in both systems.

Tennessee child support guidelines

The state of Tennessee has adopted a “percentage of obligor income” system. This is the simpler and less common of the two dominant child support systems in the United States. Under this system, noncustodial parents are obligated to pay a percentage of their monthly net income – gross income minus taxes, union dues and other approved expenses – as child support. This percentage is fixed based on the number of children being supported and ranges from 21 percent for one child to 50 percent for five or more children.

Kentucky child support guidelines

The Commonwealth of Kentucky uses the more common “combined monthly parental income” system. This system considers the adjusted incomes of both parents and determines a combined support obligation based on what a household with that income would be expected to spend on the number of children being supported. The combined obligation is allocated between the parents based on their respective incomes. The portion allocated to the noncustodial parent is paid as child support.

Frequently asked questions

My income has increased because the court ordered child support. Can I be penalized for not paying more because of my increased income?

In most situations, child support increases are only retroactive to the date the motion to modify child support is filed. However, many courts and child support collection agencies require noncustodial parents to report his or her income on a regular basis to ensure smooth modification proceedings. If your orders stipulate that, and you failed to report your income, you might have some problems. If your orders do not require you periodically to report your income, there is usually no obligation to pay anything more than what was ordered.

My ex is behind on alimony and child support. What recourse do I have?

You can go to the clerk’s office at the court where child support was ordered and request the clerk to issue a garnishment against the supporting parent’s wages. To do this, you need to know your ex-spouse’s place of employment, address and Social Security number. If payments are at least one month behind, the court sends a garnishment to the employer, and the support is taken out of your ex-spouse’s paycheck. You can also go after your ex-spouse’s property, but this is a longer process and might not be as helpful, because cars and homes are often leased and mortgaged. You can also file a petition for contempt and get an order to show why the payments are not being made. This puts your ex-spouse back in court. Recent laws allow child support enforcement agencies to cooperate across state lines, putting you in a better position if your ex-spouse lives out of state.

Contact us today for help getting a fair support order

Our attorneys at the Kennedy Law Firm, PLLC represent parents in Kentucky and Tennessee on both sides of child support proceedings. We understand how important these payments can be to a custodial parent and how much of a burden an unfair award can be to a noncustodial parent. We are committed to ensuring our clients receive fair treatment. If you want to schedule a free consultation at one of our Clarksville offices to learn what we can do for you, call us today at or contact us online. We look forward to discussing your legal issue.