Tennessee Child Support Guidelines

Tennessee Child Support Guidelines

Child Support Administration

All children have a legal right to be supported by both parents. When parents who do not live with their children fail to provide the financial support they should, the children suffer. In Tennessee the Department of Human Services (DHS) administers the child support program. The services are provided through local district attorneys, DHS staff and private agencies under contract with the state. Help is available in locating parents, establishing paternity, establishing child support orders, enforcing child support orders and securing and enforcing medical support, which includes both health insurance and cash medical support. Since January 18, 2005, the Tennessee Child Support Guidelines have been based on an Income Shares model. The model presumes that both parents contribute to the financial support of the child in proportion to the gross income available to each parent.


Families First and TennCare/Medicaid Recipients

Recipients of Families First benefits, Transitional Child Care, and TennCare/Medicaid and Foster Care cases are automatically referred to the child support office if a parent is absent from the child’s home.

Families Not Receiving Families First Benefits

Anyone, regardless of income, may apply for child support services without an application fee.  In order to apply for child support services, contact your  local child support office.  You  should bring as much of the following information as you have available:

–          Full name, address, and phone number of the parent who is responsible for support  and date at last address

–          Date of birth and physical description (or photograph) of the non-custodial parent

–          Social Security Numbers of the parties.

–          Children’s birth certificates

–          Listing of all legal actions relating to child support and/or paternity

–          Date and place of marriage, divorce or separation

–          Name and address of the current or most recent employer of the non-custodial parent

–          Names of friends and relatives of the non-custodial parent

–          Any other information pertaining to income or property of the non-custodial parent

Locating Parents

Before any action to enforce child support can take place, the alternate residential parent must be found. The information provided to DHS  about the alternate residential parent and his/her possible whereabouts is very important to this process. Facts that you know or can find out about the parent, such as an address, phone number, Social Security number, and/or employer’s name are very useful and may help us to locate him/her.  However, if you not know the whereabouts of the alternate residential parent, the state will use other sources of information to help locate him or her. Some of our sources contain statewide information include driver’s license records, motor vehicle registration records,  wage records, and others. On a routine basis, the Tennessee Child Support Enforcement System (TCSES) will automatically check these sources for leads.

Establishing Paternity

Similar to an action for child support, before any action to establish paternity can take place, the same detailed information is required to locate the alternate residential parent.  The local child support office needs as much information as you know about the alleged father, including facts about the mother’s relationship with him, her pregnancy, and the birth of the child. It is important to tell the local office if the father ever provided money for the child, admitted that he was the child’s father through letters or gifts, or signed a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form. Information from others who know about the relationship between the mother and the father is helpful, as are any pictures you may have of the father with the child.

If the alleged father denies paternity genetic tests of the mother, the child and the alleged father can be performed.  The tests can either exclude the man as the father or can show that he likely is the father. Depending on the results of genetic tests and other evidence presented to the court, an order establishing paternity can be entered. Many times alleged fathers will sign an agreed order for paternity based on the genetic test results.

Establishing a Child Support Order

A petition will be filed with the court requesting that child support be established. The alternate residential parent will be served with the petition prior to the court date. The Child Support Guidelines must be used to set the amount of support unless the judge finds that it would not be appropriate to do so in your case.

Enforcement of a Child Support Order

Families who need legal assistance to obtain child support may seek the help of a private attorney, a legal aid clinic or the state child support enforcement agency.  In Tennessee, child support enforcement services are available locally through the district attorney’s office, a state DHS office, or private agencies under contract with the state. The services available through these local offices are:

1.       Locating a child’s parent(s) for the purpose of obtaining support or

establishing paternity.

2.       Establishing paternity of a child.

3.       Establishing and enforcing child support orders.

4.       Establishing and enforcing orders for medical support, including health

insurance coverage and cash medical support.

5.       Modifying child support orders.

6.       Enforcing spousal support orders if child support is also involved.

Once a child support order is obtained, enforcement action will be taken if the alternate residential parent does not pay as ordered. In Tennessee, the duty to support continues until the child is emancipated. If the child is 18 and still in high school, the duty to support continues until the child graduates, or the class of which the child is a member when he/she turns 18 graduates, whichever occurs first. If child support is not being paid as ordered, the child support office will take whatever legal action is available to enforce the order and collect both current and past due support.

When an employer or payer of income is identified, the child support agency will issue an income withholding order. If past due support (arrears) is owed, a payment amount to reduce the balance will be included. Past due child support may also be collected in other ways even if the alternate residential parent is making payments on the balance.

Some other actions the child support agency can take to enforce non-payment of support are the placement of liens on property, the revocation of various licenses, the seizure of bank accounts, the denial of passports, and reporting to credit bureaus.

Interstate Residency of Alternate Parent

When the alternate residential parent lives in one state and the primary residential parent and child live in another state, the case is called an interstate case. All states have a child support program and are required to work together to establish and enforce child support.

The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) is a law that makes it easier for states to establish and enforce orders when the alternate residential parent lives in a different state from the child. UIFSA allows states to enforce orders that were established in other states without having to go through the other state’s courts. When necessary, Tennessee may seek assistance from the state where the alternate residential parent lives in order to establish and enforce a child support order.

Military Allotment of Child Support

Military allotments for child and spousal support can be voluntary or involuntary. If a service member is not paying support and will not agree to have payments deducted from his/her paycheck, the child support office can obtain an income assignment


Tennessee offers the “TENNESSEE CHILD SUPPORT HANDBOOK.”   This handbook is available through any local DHS office and contains valuable information to understanding the child support process in Tennessee.  Unlike other states, Tennessee contracts many human services to subsidiaries. The services are provided through local district attorneys, DHS staff and private agencies under contract with the state.   It can become a complex process trying to piece all of the procedures together in Tennessee, and this handbook is essential to anyone starting the child support process in Tennessee.

Child Support Resources

Child Support Services to help families locate absent parents, obtain child support,
enforce child support orders, or establish paternity.

1-800-838-6911 Child

Support Hotline or
(615) 253-4394 (Nashville area)

Note:  The foregoing information is provided as general child support law guidelines in the state of Tennessee and should not be considered as legal advice specific to your case.  After reviewing the above material, you will be presented with the opportunity to submit more details specific to your case directly to About The Children.

Submitted by Linda O’Marie, Paralegal


Call (800) 787-4981

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Posted in Tennessee Guidelines

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