Custody Modifications


The court will alter custody if there is a substantial and material change in the child’s circumstances — abuse, problems at school, behavioral problems or a detrimental home environment. The court will investigate and may award sole custody or “primary” custody to the other parent.

Relocating out of Tennessee with the children also requires the noncustodial parent’s permission or the Court’s permission of the other parent does not agree to the relocation. The Court considers, among other things, the amount of parenting time, the children’s ties to the present area and the reasons for the move. Is the custodial parent relocating for vindictiveness or other selfish reasons? Or has the parent found a better job, a better school for the child or is remarrying? Just to name a few. You need a strong and experienced advocate for any contested custody proceedings.

Please note that I use the term “custody.” However, Tennessee refers to “custody” as the primary residential parent status, or custodial parent, and alternate residential parent status, or noncustodial parent, instead of using the terms custody and custodial parent unless you are in Juvenile Court. The primary residential parent is the parent that you would consider with the child the majority of the time or primary custody.

Child Support and Child Support Modifications

What is child support?

The law will not permit a child to go unsupported. For this reason, once custody of a child is determined, (the law now calls the custodial parent, the primary residential parent in divorce situations) the noncustodial, or alternate residential parent, is required to pay support for the maintenance of the minor child to the custodial parent.

The law in Tennessee has changed in recent years to track a growing national trend of “income shares” in calculating the child support obligation. The present law in Tennessee takes into account a number of factors in calculating child support, including the amount of time each parent spends with the child, who pays daycare or aftercare costs and healthcare costs, the income levels of both parents, and if either parents are supporting other children.
Who owes child support?

Child support is usually paid by the alternate residential parent, or the noncustodial parent. That person is determined by the parenting plan or court order. In Juvenile Court, it is usually a presumption it is the father. Even if you were not married to the other parent of the minor child, the law will still require that child support be paid for the maintenance of that child.
How is child support calculated?

Courts now rely upon a worksheet created by the Tennessee Department of Human Services. A link to that worksheet is located above or can be located at under the child support services section. Child support is calculated in that worksheet using the factors stated above and the figure is generated by the worksheet based upon those factors and the parties’ gross incomes. Child support can even be calculated back to the date of the child’s birth and include the birthing expenses and lost wages due to the birth. So it is very important to begin paying it by check or money order. CASH is NEVER recommended as you will never be able to prove the payments in court.
Can court ordered child support be modified?

The answer to that question is yes! Child support orders can be modified upon a showing of a significant variance in the amount of the child support obligation. Some situations that can give rise to a significant variance include either parent being legally obligated to support an additional child, increased childcare, healthcare or income that results in a 15% change in the amount of the support currently being paid.

To speak to one of our legal professionals who is dedicated to communicating with you, is sensitive to your needs and is an effective and skilled advocate, contact the law firm of Karnes Legal Services, at 731-668-9529. Or, if you prefer, send us an e-mail using our secure online form. We accept all major credit cards.