Schwager v. Messer (Tennessee 2019)

No. W2018-01820-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. 2019)
September 2019

The start date for a modified child support amount is the date that the action as filed. The parents divorced, and in the decree agreed to a downward deviation of support for two years. At that time, they would exchange financial information and recalculate support. Six years later, the mother filed to modify the child support. She argued that support should be retroactive to the date the parties agreed to in the decree. Following a lengthy action, the trial court recalculated support, but started it as of the date of the filing of the modification petition. Both parents appealed the order on various grounds. The mother argued that support should be retroactive to the agreed review date in the decree. The court of appeals agreed with the trial court as to the start date. The Tennessee Supreme Court has clearly stated that provisions which involve child support lose any contractual nature when merged with a divorce decree and are subject to modification. Child support modifications must follow statute, so the appropriate start date for the modified amount was the date of the filing of the petition. The father appealed the trial court’s calculation of the mother’s income. The trial court averaged the mother’s income and excluded bonuses, which weren’t guaranteed. The court of appeals found no error.