May 2018 | W2016-02011-COA-R3-JV (Tenn. Ct. App. 2018)

State ex rel. Nichols v. Songstad (Tennessee 2018)

Child support cannot be modified without court permission even when the number of children for whom the parent is responsible changes. The parent must file for a modification, provide notice to the other parents, and prove a significant variance. The mother and father were divorced, and the father was ordered to pay support for their two children. Upon the emancipation of the first child, the father unilaterally began paying about half the amount of the ordered support. After the second child emancipated, the mother filed to establish arrears and/or modify the support order. The trial court determined the amount of arrears and ordered the father to pay. The father appealed, arguing a parent has no duty to support a child after emancipation and that emancipation is not a modification. The appellate court held that a significant variance must exist before an order can be modified. By current statute, the significant variance is 15 percent in the child support amount, even if the number of children for whom the parent is responsible for supporting has changed.

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