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Helton Law Firm, PLLC

Chattanooga Divorce Law Blog

How to keep up with child support payments

If someone in Tennessee is unable to pay child support, it may not be because that person is a deadbeat. There can be legitimate reasons why a parent isn't paying support as ordered such as a job loss, disability or spending money to support other children. Those who are having a hard time keeping up with their payments should ask that their current order be modified.

A modification will take into account the fact that a noncustodial parent isn't making as much as he or she did when a child support order was first issued. In addition to a job loss, medical expenses or increased childcare costs could also be considered changed circumstances that warrant a modification. Until an order is changed, parents should continue to make their payments as best they can, and they should not enter into an oral agreement.

Documentary examines shortcomings of child support system

Noncustodial parents in Tennessee often have an obligation to pay child support. Falling behind on payments can have devastating consequences on parents and children. A documentary film from Rel Dowdell called "Where's Daddy?" examines the child support system and the challenges faced by men who go into default on their support payments.

According to a study from the Urban Institute, parents who owe child support overwhelmingly lack income. About 70 percent of them either have no reported income or only earn under $10,000 a year. When people fall behind on payments, they often lose close contact with children, experience financial ruin and sometimes go to jail. The documentary looked at how these pressures cause men to self destruct from the guilt of missing payments.

Uncovering asset hiding during a divorce

Divorce involving a privately owned business can be particularly complicated due to the difficulties of establishing the valuation of the company. When people in Tennessee make the division to divorce, one of the most contentious parts of the end of the marriage is often the financial distribution of assets. However, the difficulty of property division can be elevated substantially when one partner attempts to hide assets from the other.

When one spouse has a greater level of involvement and control over the business, they may attempt to achieve a more favorable outcome in the divorce by obscuring the scope of their income and assets. This can mean falsely lowering their visible income and assets through the business or overstating the costs and expenses that it faces. In addition, they may attempt to bill their personal attorney's fees to the business rather than their own accounts and reduce the value of the business. By doing this, a divorcing spouse may hope to evade responsibility for spousal support, lower their child support payments or walk away with a larger share in property division.

Military marriages on the decline

Marriage appears to be less popular among members of the military in Tennessee and across the country. A review of military statistics showed that in 2011, around 56.6 percent of all service members on active duty were married. However, in fiscal year 2017, only 51.7 percent of all troops were married. This trend reflects similar movement in civilian life; around 49 percent of all adults in the United States are married as of 2017.

While the military provides certain incentives for marriage, such as special housing allowances for married couples, military marriage can carry unique challenges. Deployments, separations and intense schedules can put pressure on a marriage and lead to military divorces, especially as military couples often marry earlier in life. The same study found that the divorce rate for members of the military remained relatively stable in 2017; for four years, the divorce rate has stayed between 3 percent and 3.1 percent.

The effect of divorce on child tax deductions

The Internal Revenue Service recognizes that raising children is expensive and extends valuable exemptions and tax credits to parents in Tennessee. When parents divorce or separate, they cannot share in the tax benefits of claiming a child as a dependent. Only one parent can claim the child as a dependent. The IRS will not recognize any agreements or court orders that attempt to spread the tax benefits between divorced parents.

In general, the IRS views the custodial parent as the person providing more than half of a child's support. In most cases, the custodial parent has a right to claim the child as a dependent and gain access to tax exemptions and credits. When a noncustodial parent provides more than half of the financial support for a child, that person might qualify under certain conditions to list the child as a dependent. To accomplish this, a noncustodial parent will need to include in a tax return a Form 8332 Release of Claim to Exemption for Child of Divorced or Separated Parents signed by the custodial parent.

Hip-hop celebrities' child custody battle turns new page

Many divorced parents in Tennessee struggle to deal with child custody issues. These problems can also be shared by celebrities, as in the case of hip-hop stars Nas and Kelis. The rapper and singer are divorced parents of an 8-year-old son, and their post-divorce relationship has included ongoing forays into court before reaching a custody agreement in March.

Since then, However, Nas has returned to family court asking for penalties against Kelis, who he claims refused to allow him to have their son during Passover. He says that he was to have the weekend with the child according to the custody schedule, but Kelis reportedly claimed that their son wanted to remain at her home for the holiday. In the documents, Nas alleges that there is an ongoing pattern of difficulties exercising his custody time. He claims that he has been turned away from her home when going to pick up the boy and that he has been denied the right to take him home from school.

How abusive parents might still pursue child custody

Tennessee parents who are leaving an abusive marriage may face a custody challenge from the other parent. The American Psychological Association found that while most people assume that an abusive parent will be kept away from the children once the other parent leaves, this is often not the case. In fact, because family courts are focused on trying to keep children in contact with both parents, they may downplay reports of abuse. A study in 2012 by the American Judges Association found that in more than two-thirds of challenged cases, abusive spouses convinced a judge that the abused parent should not have sole custody or was unfit.

One issue is that many custody evaluators may not have experience with domestic violence. They may expect an abused parent to act in a certain way, such as sad and depressed instead of angry or confused, or they might decide that a parent who suffers from depression as a result of abuse is mentally unstable.

Visitation schedules

When Tennessee parents of young children end their marriage, child custody and visitation is often a primary concern. In most cases, parents want to want to maintain good relationships with their children. Court systems also recognize the importance of parental influence in their children's lives. Unless a parent is somehow deemed unfit due to behavioral issues, the courts will usually provide him or her with visitation time.

When parents divorce, they usually share legal custody. However, it is not unusual for one parent to have primary physical custody, which means that the children live with that parent most of the time. In such a case, a visitation or parenting time schedule will need to be worked out.

Parent-child relationships at risk from custodial interference

Parents in Tennessee may face some of the most difficult aspects of their divorce when dealing with the issue of child custody. In many cases, both parents want to fight hard for more time with their children. Eventually, the custody issue should be resolved with a formal agreement and court order, but unfortunately, some parents refuse to accept the outcome of the child custody decision. These parents might repeatedly attempt to undermine the relationship with the other parent and keep their child away, breaking the parent-child bond over time. This is often referred to as custodial interference, and it can rise to the level of a criminal matter.

Custodial interference happens most frequently as part of an ongoing custody dispute, even after a child custody order is settled. A parent may refuse to hand their child over for scheduled custody time, pick up the child from school while in the other parent's custody or wage a campaign to influence the child to press for a different custody agreement. In some extreme cases, a parent may attempt to leave the area with the child. This kind of interference can damage the parent-child relationship and can also be highly damaging to the emotional well-being of the child.

Common child custody issues in Tennessee

There are many issues that come into play during a child custody proceeding. For instance, a judge may need to take a look at whether a parent is physically or mentally abusive toward a child. Ideally, a parent will stay in one geographical area to provide a stable environment for a son or daughter. Parents should also have a job or steady source of income if they are seeking custody.

In some cases, a child advocate will observe the interactions between a parent and child. The advocate might also observe the type of environment that is provided for the child. This information may help a judge determine what is in the best interests of the child when determining who should have custody. As a general rule, siblings will be kept together to provide stability for them both. However, custody could be split depending on what is best for each child.

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