Imagine this: your child is in need of new shoes for school, because kids ALWAYS need new shoes for school; their feet grow so fast! You planned on making the purchase this weekend, after you picked up your kid from an overnight stay at his mother’s.
When you get to the door, your child comes flying out of the house with shoeboxes in his hand, and excitedly shows you the new, high-end sneakers Dad bought him because he made good grades, or because he cleaned his room, or because of any reason – they’re a gift, and a nice one at that. You’re happy, your child is happy, and Dad seems happy, too.
But when next week rolls around, you get a call from your co-parent asking you to refund part of his child support payment. After all, he says, he just bought those shoes, and child support is supposed to help pay for things like clothes and shoes.
Do you have to give him that “refund”? Should you?
In a word – no. There is no “refund” when it comes to child support, whether the gift was for your child or even for you. Your ex can’t claim he’s owed some kind of payment if he buys your kid fancy shoes (or buys you something nice, either) because that’s not how child support works.
However, gifts may be considered in the gross income when calculating child support; they just aren’t automatically eligible as part of the basic child support obligation. In other words, the court will not replace regular child support payments with gifts, as the primary responsibility remains on the obligor (the parent who pays support) to make consistent and appropriate child support payments as determined by Tennessee guidelines. The provision of gifts by the obligor should not be seen as a substitute for fulfilling their ongoing financial obligation to support their child.
If this seems confusing, we understand. So let’s break it all down so it’s easier to understand.
What qualifies as child support payments?
Under the child support guidelines of the Tennessee Department of Human Services, certain child-rearing expenses are included in the basic child support obligation (BCSO). These expenses typically cover essential needs such as housing, food, transportation, and basic educational expenses associated with a public school education. Gifts given to the child, whether in the form of cash or other valuable items, are generally not considered as part of the BCSO. Child support is primarily intended to cover the regular and recurring expenses associated with raising a child, and gifts are often considered irregular and occasional in nature.
However, the guidelines do not specifically address the inclusion of gifts, such as cash gifts, paying for vacations, the gift of a car, or any other such gifts, in the child support calculation.
In situations where a parent provides substantial gifts or financial contributions that significantly impact the child’s well-being, the court may consider these contributions when determining child support. However, the inclusion of gifts as part of child support is not automatic, and it would typically require a specific request or formal agreement between the parents.
Should I accept gifts for child support payments?
It is essential for both parents to communicate openly and honestly about any financial support provided to the child outside of the standard child support arrangement. If either parent believes that gifts or other contributions should be considered as part of child support, they should seek legal advice and consult with the court to determine whether such gifts can be factored into the child support calculation as a deviation.
Ultimately, the main focus of child support is to ensure that the child’s basic needs are met consistently and that both parents fulfill their financial responsibilities towards the child’s upbringing. Any significant contributions beyond the regular child support arrangement should be discussed and agreed upon by both parents to avoid misunderstandings or disputes in the future.
How do gifts factor into determining the gross income of the parents?
In Tennessee, determining gross income for child support calculations involves considering various sources of income, ensuring a comprehensive evaluation of the parent’s financial resources. Gross income includes all earnings from employment, such as wages, salaries, tips, bonuses, and commissions. It also encompasses income from self-employment, rental properties, royalties, dividends, and interest.
Additionally, gross income incorporates income from pensions, retirement plans, Social Security benefits, disability benefits, and any other sources of recurring income. ALL income, including imputed income (potential earnings based on education and work history), is taken into account when calculating child support.
It should also be noted that, according to the Rules of Tennessee Department of Human Services,
“gifts that consist of cash or other liquid instruments, or which can be converted to cash; prizes, and lottery winnings” are also to be included when determining gross income.
Tennessee law may impute income to a parent who is unemployed or underemployed voluntarily, meaning the court may attribute a certain income level to that parent based on their qualifications and earning potential.
How a Franklin child support attorney can help
If your head is spinning a little, we understand. But there’s a silver lining: if you work with us, you don’t really have to worry about all the financial data; we can help you with it. The single most important thing to remember is that you have to be honest – with us and with the court – about how much money you make. So, make sure to bring all your financial records with you when you meet us for your consultation. Bring your pay stubs and your tax returns, and copies of your bank statements. If you have stocks and property, bring documentation for that, too. Once we have all of your information, we can show you how it applies to the filings for your divorce and child support.
And if something changes along the way, tell us about that, too. Tennessee allows parents to modify their support orders when they’ve experienced a material change in circumstances. It’s better to go through the proper legal channels than to accept a “gentleman’s agreement” with your ex when it comes to child support.
The Law Offices of Adrian H. Altshuler & Associates is a trusted ally for parents navigating child support disputes, providing dedicated legal representation in Franklin, Brentwood, Columbia, and throughout Middle Tennessee. Our team is well-versed in handling complex financial situations to ensure children receive the necessary support they deserve. We understand that divorce and separation can be challenging for children, and our goal is to help secure the financial stability they need based on their parents’ income. Schedule a consultation today by calling us or filling out our contact form.