Baker v. Baker (Tennessee 2021)

No. M2020-00374-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. App. 2021)
January 2021

The definition of income for child support doesn’t include alimony paid to a party in the proceeding. Military retired pay is marital property, subject to property distribution and is not income for child support. The parents in this case, who had two children, divorced. The father was active military but had plans to retire. In the final decree, the district court ordered the father to pay alimony until his retirement, at which time the mother would receive her share of the father’ s military retirement directly. The district court didn’t credit the father for either of these payments as part of his income for child support. The father appealed the final divorce decree arguing that the trial court should have credited him for the alimony, the retirement benefits, and health insurance premiums. The appellate court affirmed the income calculation. The guideline definition of income clearly states that alimony paid to a party to the proceeding is not included as income for child support. Under Tennessee caselaw, military retirement is marital property and subject to equitable division. It is not income for child support except to the extent it creates additional income after the division. The court noted this could be addressed through a later modification. The court also found parents should be given credit for actual amounts paid towards the children’s health insurance. However, if the parent’s employer pays the entire amount, as in this case, the parent won’t be given credit.