In the majority of child support cases in Tennessee, the custodial parent is the mother, and the father pays child support. The law generally requires that the parent who pays child support does so until the child attains the age of majority, becomes an active-duty member of the military or is emancipated by a court of appropriate jurisdiction. The required payments may also cease if the payor parent's rights are terminated, such as by adoption.
Both parents are responsible for the financial support of their children. When a child custody decision is made, the person who is granted physical custody typically does not have child support obligations. The noncustodial parent may be ordered to make support payments to fulfill his or her financial obligations. In cases where the parents have joint custody, the amount of child support payments is usually calculated based on the percentage of time each parent has actual physical custody.
Child support obligations are not predicated on the parents having been married at any point. Parental financial responsibility may be determined by an acknowledgment on the father's part by welcoming the child into his home or taking a paternity test. It is possible in some cases that one of the parents will be pursued by a government agency to pay back funds that were conveyed by public assistance. Once a support order has been entered, it may be possible to secure a modification based on changes in circumstances.
Qualifying changes in circumstances might include losing a job, being forced to take a pay cut or experiencing a significant increase in expenses due to a medical condition. An attorney with experience handling divorce cases might be able to help parents pursue an order of modification. In cases where one person has failed to make support payments, an attorney might be able to help the other individual secure funds.