Let’s Talk Money, Honey

For those of us who are parents (or even stepparents) sharing custody of a child, a big issue that can cause stress is child support. I’m not talking to the successful co-parents right now; the rest of us applaud you, don’t quite understand you, and are often jealous of you. We aspire – and usually fail – to be like you. If you’re in an amicable co-parenting relationship with your child’s parent, congratulations (and consider writing a “how-to” book in your spare time, to help out the rest of us and our stubborn exes).

For the majority of us, co-parenting is a stressful situation most of the time. A large part of that stress stems from child support payments. You may be the primary custodial parent who is entitled to receive support but not receiving it as you’re supposed to, which makes it hard to be able to provide daily necessities for your child. Or you may be the parent obligated to pay child support monthly, who gets frustrated to see your payments used for items that don’t relate whatsoever to your child.

So how long do you have to deal with this stressful situation of child support? In Tennessee, a parent is obligated to support his or her child until either that child reaches age eighteen or his class graduates high school, whichever is later. Note that, unsurprisingly, there are some exceptions to this general rule, such as a child who has special needs, becomes emancipated, or gets married. But generally, child support ends around the age of eighteen or high school graduation.

Whether you’re receiving child support or paying it, mark that end date on your calendar – you need to keep it in mind so you can plan for your child’s needs accordingly. But note that the end of child support is not automatic: the paying parent needs to go back to court to officially terminate his or her obligation to pay child support. Doing so provides protection to that paying parent because failing to follow a court order to pay can have serious consequences.

We have extensive experience with the child support system in Tennessee, both personally and, of course, professionally. Frankly, there are many problems we see with our system, for both sides. If you have questions about child support in Middle Tennessee, call us. We can help you navigate these muddy financial waters.