Child Support Guidelines - Frequently Asked Questions

You can view the complete text of the Child Support Rules here (including the Guidelines-Chapter 1240-02 04):

All of the Rules for the Department of Human Services can be located here:

Yes! There are multiple options for automatically calculating support which includes a web-style calculator, Excel worksheet as well as an iOS application that can be downloaded on any iPhone or iPad. For more information on all of these options, go to:     

The amended Guidelines apply to all child support cases whether the action is filed before or after the effective date of the rules, where a hearing that results in an order establishing, modifying, or enforcing support is held on or after the effective date of the rules. Modifications of existing orders must comply with the requirements of the amended Guidelines.

The Self-Support Reserve (SSR) is the minimum amount of income required to meet the basic subsistence needs of a parent. The obligor is eligible for the self support reserve (SSR) adjustment if his/her income falls within the shaded area of the CS Schedule. The SSR adjustment amount shall be compared to the obligor’s proportionate share using the combined Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) of the parents to determine the Basic Child Support Obligation (BCSO) from the CS Schedule and multiplying by the Percentage of Income (PI). The lesser amount of the two establishes the Calculated BCSO Owed.

A payment available to people who can demonstrate that their income is below specified limits, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) received under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. Support may be set at zero if the only source of income for the obligor is SSI.

Email or contact your local child support office to request a review and possible modification of your child support order(s).

The amended Guidelines will be applied to all child support cases where a new or modified order results from a hearing held on or after the effective date; however, there is no “automatic” change to any child support order. One of the parties to the case request a review of the child support order. The Child Support Program may also initiate a review of a child support order on a IV-D case. This can be done by:

a. Requesting a “Review and Adjustment” from the local child support office for your county if you are currently receiving child support services, or if you apply for child support services. The Department of Human Services will conduct the review and determine if the “significant variance” rule or other rules for modification of the existing order are met, and will either seek a court order to modify the existing order or issue an administrative order modifying the support amount to make the modification; or

b. Filing a court action through your private lawyer or on your own. The same Guidelines apply to private cases.

Families First (the name for Tennessee’s version of the federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families [TANF] program) cases that are active are reviewed by the Department at least every three (3) years, without request of the parties. The amended Guidelines will apply to those three (3) year reviews that occur on or after the effective date of the new Guidelines.

NOTE: If the Department determines at the time you request services that you owe back child support, the Department will seek to collect the unpaid child support by court order, or by administrative action by the Department such as income tax refund intercepts; attachment of financial assets, workers compensation, or unemployment benefits; suspension of drivers, business, trade, or professional licenses; or any other available means of collection

Under the amended Guidelines, the number of “days”, or the average number of “days” if there is more than one (1) child involved, the children stay with the Alternate Residential Parent (ARP) determines whether the ARP is eligible for a Parenting Time Adjustment. A“day” of parenting time occurs when the child spends more than twelve (12) consecutive hours in a twenty-four (24) hour period under the care, control or direct supervision of one parent or caretaker. The twenty-four (24) hour period need not be the same as a twenty-four (24) hour calendar day. Accordingly, a “day” of parenting time may encompass either an overnight period or a daytime period, or a combination thereof.  [In extraordinary circumstances, routinely incurred parenting time of shorter duration may be cumulated as a single day for parenting time purposes.]

Under the Income Shares model, the actual cost of the child’s health insurance premiums (medical and vision/dental), uninsured medical expenses, and work-related childcare are included in the calculation of the support order. The actual expenses are divided according to each parent’s percentage of their combined income and accounted for in each parent’s share of the Support Obligation.

After calculating a BCSO, adjusting for parenting time, as appropriate, and adding health insurance cost, uninsured medical expenses, and work-related childcare expenses, educational expenses for private or special schooling for children can be considered as a deviation from the presumed amount of support. Expenses for such things as music lessons, camps, travel, and other activities that may contribute to the child’s cultural, social, artistic or athletic development (Special Expenses) may also be considered by the court as deviations from the presumptive child support order. Such Special Expenses must exceed percent (7%) of the Basic Child Support Obligation before they are considered, unless the parties agree otherwise. If a deviation is made, the court must include in the order the reasons for the deviation and the amount the order would have been without the deviation.

If each parent has exactly fifty percent (50%) of the time with a child, the parents must still complete a child support worksheet, indicating 182.5 days with the child for each parent. This is the only time a fraction of a day may be used under Income Shares. Complete the worksheet in the same manner as for any child support case, including any other children in the case on the same worksheet.

There will be a child support obligation for children who spend exactly equal time with each parent unless both parents have exactly the same income and expenses for the child.

No, the Rules do not provide a deduction for the taxes of another state.

Arrears accrue when support is not paid as ordered, whether it was ordered under the flat percentage guideline system or an income shares guideline system. Put in the simplest terms, to calculate arrears, consult the support order for the amount of the payment due and the frequency of the payment. Count the number of payments that were due from the date of the order or last judgment for arrears forward to the present and multiply by the order amount. Add the judgment amount, if any, to the amount due. That is the amount of support that should have been paid. Compare the amount that should have been paid to the amount of support that was actually paid in the same period. The difference is the arrearage.

Income is not automatically imputed to a parent due to a particular situation. The decision must be made on a case by case basis. Willful and voluntary unemployment or underemployment is not assumed in any particular situation. The parent’s intentional decisions and circumstances must be examined. For example, there are many possible reasons for a parent to stay at home. If a parent stays at home to take care of children because the cost of childcare would be more than any job the parent is skilled to perform would pay, that may not be willful unemployment. If the parent stays at home because of a personal preference and the amount of income they could be earning would more than offset the cost of employment that may be willful unemployment. With implementation of the amended guidelines, incarceration of a parent shall not be treated as voluntary underemployment or unemployment for the purpose of establishing or modifying a child support order.

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