By Jedidiah McKeehan

Excuse the crassness and brutal honesty of the question, but one question I get asked often is, “How do I get out of paying child support?”

Well, it’s not as easy as you would think.  So, let’s take the prototypical example.  A couple is married, they have a child, and then they get divorced.  The child is young, and the mother of the child wants to spend more time with the child.  The father works long hours and works out of town, so he is okay with that.

So, the father comes to me and says, “Okay, I’m going to get the child every other weekend and we are going to agree that I get to see our child for dinner whenever I want.  Also, we agreed on no child support.”  Sound great, right?  Unfortunately, it does not work like that.  The judges typically review the paperwork carefully and do not just let you agree to, “no child support.”

When I tell fathers this, and then I run the numbers for them and tell them how much they will be expected to pay, they usually have a mild panic attack right in my office.

After that moment passes, we then dive into the conversation about how to minimize their child support obligation, and what I tell them to do to minimize their child support obligation makes perfect sense from a common-sense perspective.

So, there are only a few different variables that go into the Tennessee Child Support Worksheet that alters the child support required to be paid.  By the way, the Child Support Worksheet is free and open to the public.  A simple internet search will take you straight to it for downloading.

The first way to minimize the child support you have to pay is to maximize time with your child!  You only want to see your child every other weekend and at other times when the mother will allow you to do so?  Come on!  Figure it out and spend time with your child!  The worksheet gives credit to a parent for a day when they spend over 12 hours during a day with their child, however, most, if not all, attorneys I know simplify this calculation and give a parent credit for a day to the parent with whom the child spends the night.  So, if a father is seeing their child for dinner, that’s great, but they get no credit for that on the Child Support Worksheet when it comes time to calculate what they owe in child support.

The second way to minimize the child support you have to pay is to pay to receive credit for other payments you make on behalf of your child.  The only two payments that matter are whether you pay monthly health insurance premiums for your child and whether you pay for work-related childcare expenses (i.e. daycare or babysitting expenses) for your child.

That’s it.  The other factors that go in the calculation of child support are how much money each parent makes, and whether each parent has other children with someone else whom they care for.  However, those factors are not things you can really change to minimize the child support you pay.

It’s important to point out, even if parents have equal time with their child, one parent will likely owe the other parent child support if the parents do not make the same amount of money.  This is surprising to people, but its true.  This is so the parents are on as equal footing as they can be regarding providing for their child while their child is with them.

Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties.  He works in many areas, including criminal, personal injury, landlord-tenant, probate, and estate planning. Visit for more information about this legal issue and other legal issues.