What Do Courts Consider When Determining Support Obligations?

Most Tennessee couples going through the divorce process have a number of factors to deal with and worry about as they prepare for the future. Some common concerns include living arrangements, child custody agreements and even what life will look like as a single person, but most couples also think about how they will handle changes to their financial status moving forward. In particular, many divorcing people include child and/or spousal support arrangements in their divorce agreement and may be wondering what a court considers when determining a spouse’s level of support obligation.

It helps to become familiar with general guidelines followed by courts when it comes to determining support obligations. Typically, courts will consider any income earned through employment or other means, including salary, employment perks, performance or signing bonuses and deferred compensation, among others. In addition to earned income, courts will also consider any recurring passive income (i.e. dividends on investments). The court also has the right to investigate beyond the most recently filed federal tax return if it suspects unreported money exists.

Those who are trying to make their income seem lower than it actually is should know that courts consider average earnings over several years, so such tactics will likely not work. However, people whose income is being evaluated for support purposes can keep a few things in mind. If possible, they can either speed up or slow down the divorce process if, for example, they anticipate a temporary increase or decrease in earnings. Divorcing spouses may also choose to grant a greater share of the marital assets to the other party, as doing so may lower support obligations.

Many divorcing Tennessee couples would likely agree that discussions around child and/or spousal support are among the most challenging aspects of the divorce process. While people will likely feel stressed knowing the court is closely examining their income, it may help them to remember the goal is to ensure their family can continue to live the lifestyle they have known. For guidance with this process, as well as all other aspects of the divorce process, many divorcing couples enlist the help of an experienced family law attorney.

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