May 2017 | No.W2016-00655-COA-R3-JV (Tenn Ct. App. 2016)

State of Tennessee ex rel. Bass v. Gonzalez-Perez (Tennessee 2017)

Longshore and Harbor Workers’ benefits are exempt from income withholding; however, the receipt of these benefits does not excuse a parent from paying child support. A parent who fails to pay can be found in contempt. In this case, the father suffered a work-related injury and qualified for Longshoreman’s benefits. After the accident, his support amount was reduced, and he stopped paying altogether. The child support program filed for contempt, and the court found that the father willfully failed to pay his support. On appeal, the father argued that because he received non-garnishable benefits, his obligation to support the child stopped. In addition, he claimed to have no ability to pay. The appellate court disagreed and held that the benefits are a part of his available assets to pay child support. Since he received enough money each month to pay his bills and set aside money for repairs, he had the ability to pay his child support.

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