Johnson v. Dominick (Tennessee 2017)

No. 63CC1-2015-CV-879 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2017)
November 2017

The Tennessee child support guidelines provide that child support starts at the birth of the child and retroactive support must be set accordingly.* If a court deviates from the guidelines, it must make specific findings regarding the factors set forth in Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-2-311(a)(11)(A)(i-iii). Without these findings, the order is defective. The mother appealed the provision of the child support order that set retroactive support starting in the month following the filing of the Petition to Establish Paternity. The appellate court found the order didn’t address the statutorily required factors for deviating from the guidelines. The factors include: the alleged father’s knowledge of the child and his possible paternity, the mother’s intentional failure to notify the father about the child and his possible paternity, and any attempts at notice on the mother’s part. The Court remanded the case for entry of a compliant order.

*This statute was recently amended so that for orders filed on or after July 1, 2017, retroactive support can only go back five years from the date of the filing of the action unless good cause applies and a different award is in the interests of justice. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-2-311(a)(11)(G).