TNDHS seeks input on Child Support laws

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Across the country, many separated parents struggle to pay child support.

Here in Tennessee, some say the system is flawed, leaving them in debt with no time for their kids. But things could be changing for the first time in more than a decade.

“Everything that I had given was looked at as a gift, so when I got into court they immediately wanted to go ahead and get me on child support and they backdated me to the time that we split up,” Ryan Powell with the Tennessee Father’s Rights Movement told News 2.

“I’ve spent $40,000 dollars in two years, I still didn’t get equal custody,” Walter Richardson, the legislative manager for the Father’s Rights Movement nationwide said.

Powell and Richardson say these are just some of the hurdles non-custodial parents face when it comes to child support. Laws in Tennessee that have not seen change since 2006.

But this month, the Tennessee Department of Human Services (TNDHS) is asking for public input on changing the guidelines in order to comply with new federal rules.

One of those guidelines is “Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity.”

“I did have to go two months without being able to see my daughter at all,” Powell explained, “They started me out with two supervised visits to absolutely nothing until I got into court.”

Powell compared not being married to the mother of his daughter to being a felon, as he waited months to prove paternity in court. He said the judge even made him backpay child support the months he was away from her.

“If a father has signed the birth certificate and acknowledgment of paternity and was not married to the child’s mother, he doesn’t have any rights to his child until he goes to court and establishes his rights,” Powell explained.

Another guideline the two men say needs attention is imputed income which is calculated yearly but doesn’t always take into account a lost job or overtime.

And even if parents share custody 50/ 50, one parent will still pay the other child support.

“I believe there should be no child support if there’s 50/50 unless one parent is making a huge amount of money compared to the other parent,” Powell said.

“Generally speaking the noncustodial parent, which is generally speaking the father, will get the health insurance obligation, the lion share of daycare obligations things like that if it’s a dual-income home,” Richardson added, “So at the end of the day dad kind of turns around and say I only get to see my kids four days a month and I’m giving away you know a huge amount of my income.”

TNDHS is accepting input from anyone in the state until Monday, August 19.

Email childsupportpolicy.dhs@tn.gov and put in the subject line: “Formal comment to child support guidelines”.

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