December 2019 | No. W2018-02008-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. 2019)

Parsons v. Parsons (Tennessee 2019)

A parent must properly plead for a modification otherwise it shouldn’t be considered during a court proceeding. In this post-divorce action, the mother filed for contempt and breach of contract against the father. In their marital dissolution agreement (MDA), the mother was to receive a portion of the father’s supplemental federal retirement benefit. When a federal employee must retire before being social security eligible, this supplemental benefit kicks in to make up the difference. The father, a retired air traffic controller, had to retire at age 56, and was entitled to the benefit. If the federal employee earns income above a certain amount, the supplemental benefit it reduced. This is what happened, and the mother filed to recover her portion. Initially, the trial court awarded the mother additional child support to make up for the lost amount, but in a later proceeding, reversed this decision. The mother appealed. The court of appeals found the trial court was correct in reversing itself on the child support. The mother didn’t plead for a modification when she brought the action and wasn’t entitled to one. Further, she had already initiated an action for modification that was based on her income being reduced as a result of the benefit loss.

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