Do I Have to Pay Child Support for My Stepchildren?

Do I Have to Pay Child Support for My StepchildrenDivorces can be complicated. And they can quickly become even more complex when there are children involved. Child support is often a hot topic during the divorce process because there are so many factors that must be taken into consideration.

But say your marriage doesn’t work out and your spouse has children from a pervious; do you have to pay for them? The answer is probably not. Tennessee cannot consider a stepparent’s income when determining child support. In fact, stepparents are not required to pay any amount of child support for their stepchildren. No matter who the stepchildren live with, the stepparent is not legally required to provide any type of support. The state simply requires those with parental rights to be responsible for their own children.

Now, there are three additional things you should know:

  1. If you adopt your stepchildren, they are no longer your stepchildren. They are legally your ids, and you are required to pay child support for them.
  2. You can, voluntarily, set money aside for your stepchildren through a trust or an inheritance, if you think of those kids as yours but never legally adopted them.
  3. Getting remarried can affect your child support payments, if your new spouse contributes to the household expenses. After all, your income doesn’t need to extend as far to the bills, so your ex can request more money. So it can feel like you’re paying for stepchildren if, say, your new spouse is the one who pays child support.

How does Tennessee determine child support?

Tennessee’s Child Support Guidelines dive deep into those factors affecting child support, but they can be very confusing. What you need to know is this: child support is based on income shares. Some of the factors include:

  • Salary
  • Benefits
  • Account interest
  • Dividends
  • Annuities
  • Bonuses
  • Insurance

The worksheets also ask about parenting time – not because child custody determines support, but because child support covers EVERYTHING a child needs, including clothing, shelter, access to electricity and the internet, food, and so forth. So if your co-parent is the primary residential parent, it will typically fall on him or her to provide the lion’s share of these needs.

Another factor in the child support calculation is whether or not you have children from a previous marriage. If you do and you pay support for them, then those payments are factored into your overall income.

However, we must point out that there are extremely detailed factors that come into play in order to determine the exact amount. If a parent is not a salaried employee and works for tips instead, that can change the way child support is determined. The same goes for commissions, business income, and other non-traditional forms of income. The goal is to try and maintain the child’s socioeconomic impact by meeting their basic needs and providing stability. The state ideally wants to minimize as much of a negative impact on the children as possible by keeping their life as “normal” as it can be.

There are online child support calculators that you can use in order to have a better idea of how much you will owe, but this is why it is best to work with an experienced child support attorney. The confusing terminology and calculations can cause a lot of uncertainty and doubt. A good attorney will help break everything down for you so you are confident and comfortably able to pay child support for your family.

Can a child support order be changed down the road?

Yes, it can. Child support orders can be changed after they have been approved through the court system, but it is not easy. A judge will typically only consider changing the support amount if the circumstances have changed, like one parent getting a new job. Let’s say the mother has primary custody of a child, with the father being able to see the child on weekends. He has been ordered to pay $200 per month in child support. However, he recently has been laid off. In this case, the father can ask the court to lower his child support payments because he does not have the same income as he did when he was working full time.

On the other hand, let’s say that the father recently received a huge promotion. He is now making more than double his salary when child support was first determined. In this case, the mother can go back to the court and ask for more money in child support since she knows that the father can afford significantly more than what he has been paying. Of course, this request needs to be justified. Does the child want to go to a private school? Do they want to participate in another dance class? It just needs to be proven that the request for the additional amount is legitimate before it can be approved.

Sometimes the needs of the child are the reason why Franklin child support agreements need some tweaking. If parents divorced when their child was only a few months old, then their needs may be significantly different in a year or two. They will definitely be eating more, may need to go to daycare, need more clothes, and it is the parents’ responsibility to make sure those needs are met.

Do not struggle through a child support case all on your own. If you are going through a divorce or are trying to change a current child support agreement, talk to the Franklin attorneys at the Law Offices of Adrian H. Altshuler & Associates. They will help you every step of the way and will fight for your rights as a parent. Call our office, or submit a request through our contact form to schedule an appointment in Franklin, Columbia, or Brentwood today.


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