Hill v. Hill (Tennessee 2021)
The trial court must follow the required procedure when modifying a child support order. The parents appeared before the court on post-divorce motions. The two children were emancipated at the time of the hearing. Child support was at issue. In an earlier hearing, the father had received custody of the son, and the court hadn’t ordered support. At issue was the father’s income. The father received an inheritance and used the money to pay for the children’s private school tuition. The trial court recognized the inheritance was income to the father but in the final order, the trial court found it would be unjust to count the inheritance as income since the father used it to pay for tuition. The trial court calculated support and entered a judgement in favor of the father for back support. The mother appealed. The appellate court reversed finding the trial court didn’t follow the required statutory procedure for a modification of support. The trial court gave the father a deviation for paying for tuition without determining if the order met the requirements for a modification. First, the trial court must determine if a significant variance exists between the current support and the proposed obligation. Once that step is complete, the trial court can deviate if appropriate.