April 2021 | No. W2019-01010-COA-R3-JV (Tenn. App. 2021)

State ex rel. Roberts v. Crafton (Tennessee 2021)

A child support order may be void on grounds of public policy if it relieves both parents of their obligation to pay support. The original divorce decree in this case ordered the father to pay half of the children’s private school tuition in lieu of child support. If the children stopped attending private school, then support would be calculated under the guidelines. Subsequently, the case was transferred from Circuit Court to Juvenile Court.  The father filed many motions all with the objective of setting aside the tuition provision. The father filed an appeal of the denial of his latest motion. In the appeal, he argued the original child support order was void as to public policy and the Juvenile Court had no jurisdiction over the tuition provision because it was a contract modifiable only in Circuit Court. The court of appeals found the original support order was valid under public policy. Both parents were still obligated to support their children. The appeal time for this order and the subsequent orders in the case had long since run and that would have been the way to challenge the original order. The appellate court found that the Juvenile Court properly exercised jurisdiction over the tuition provision. When the tuition provision became part of the final divorce decree, it lost any contractual nature and was subject to modification in the Juvenile Court.

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