13 Jun 2012

Tennessee Father Gets Child Support Break for Parenting Time on Appeal

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Tennessee law case summary on child support enforcement in Tennessee divorce and family law from the Tennessee Court of Appeals.

State of Tennessee, EX Rel. Rebecca Estes V Michael Estes – Child Support Enforcement

This case involves the attempt to obtain child support payments as required to be paid by Michael Estes to Rebecca Estes in which the State of Tennessee provided child support enforcement. The court previously modified the child support obligations but held the father in civil contempt for failure to pay support prior to the filing of the modification. The father appealed the decision.

After 16 years of marriage, the mother and father divorced in 2006. They had two children who were minors at the time of the divorce. The mother was designated the primary residential parent and the father was given reasonable visitation. The father was ordered to pay child support of $113.76 per week. At the time of the divorce, the father amassed child support arrearage of $1,000. The trial court then ordered the father to pay an additional $7 per week towards the arrearage. The monthly obligation was $462.04.

In September of 2006, the father owed $914 in arrearage and was up to date on weekly payments. The mother moved to Knox County in October while the children were visiting their father. At that time, the children remained with the father in Blount County and the father ceased to make child support obligations. The mother returned to Blount County in March of 2007. In May of 2007, the father filed a petition alleging the children had resided with him for the previous nine months and the mother exercised very little, if any, overnight co-parenting time. He also claimed the mother did not have a stable home and provided no support. The father requested child support and a change in the residential custody.

On April 24, 2008, the lower court ruled the father as a primary residential parent of Jared and the mother as the primary residential parent of Jordan. The parents agreed there was no arrearage in child support owed by either party and directed the parents to submit a permanent parenting plan for each child.

Neither parent submitted a parenting plan. Jared then turned 18. In February of 2009, the parents engaged in mediation and submitted a parenting plan for the court to approve. The plan designated the mother as the primary residential parent for Jordan but divided the residential time between parents. Neither party was to pay child support. The plan did not note any arrearage from the divorce decree.

In June of 2010, after Jordan turned 18, the mother filed a motion with the court saying she was owed child support from October 2006 through May of 2010. She admitted the father had custody of the children for several months and that she did not pay child support at those times. She alleges the father refused to return the children to her. She also admitted to participating in mediation and signing the Parenting Plan agreement.

According to the lower court, the father owed $1,135.84 for the original child support arrearage and $3,944 for unpaid child support from October 2006 through May of 2007, when the petition received modification. It held the father in contempt for failure to pay these debts.

The court also said that the father owed child support from May 2007 through November of 2008.

The father appealed these decisions. The appeals court heard that the father believed he should receive a modification and credit for the period of time the children spent with him. The ruling by the appeals court stated that the lower court failed to adjust the parenting time in consideration of actual amount of time each child spend with the father. As such, it reversed the judgment of the trial court that directed the father to pay any arrearage calculated using the new child support worksheets. The appeals court also ruled that it affirmed the child support arrearage from October 2006 through May of 2007.

Court of Appeals of Tennessee at Knoxville, Appeal from the General Sessions Court for Blount County, No. 5-12239, Hon. Robert L. Headrick, Judge.

Disclaimer: See original opinion for exact language.  Legal citations omitted.

Memphis divorce lawyer, Miles Mason, Sr., JD, CPA practices family law exclusively and is founder of the Miles Mason Family Law Group, PLC, which handles Tennessee family law matters including divorce, child support, alimony, prenuptial agreements, child custody, parental relocation, child support modification, and alimony modification.

Miles Mason

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Memphis divorce and family lawyer, Miles Mason, Sr. is the founder of Miles Mason Family Law Group, PLC. For more information about our professional staff, see our Meet the Team page.

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