Tennessee child support case summary on Kentucky interest.
Elizabeth Ann Baker Grace v. Jonathan Barrett Grace
The parents in this case were married in 2010 in Kentucky and had a child in 2011. Shortly after the marriage, the husband began experiencing auditory hallucinations and attempted suicide. He enlisted in the Marine Corps, but two days into boot camp, he attempted suicide again and was discharged. He was hospitalized in Nashville. The mother filed for divorce in Kentucky, and the parties agreed that the mother would have full custody, subject to visitation supervised by the father’s parents. The father was not ordered to pay child support. A year later, the father was approved for SSDI, and the mother began receiving $164 per month on behalf of the child. The Kentucky court also ordered the father to pay $206.50 per month. The father assumed that he would receive credit for the SSDI payment, and started sending $60 per month.
The mother continued to have good relations with the father’s parents until 2016. At that time, the grandparents took the father to a program at the child’s school. The mother thought this was inappropriate and cut off all contact with the grandparents.
A month later, the father filed a petition to register the Kentucky decree in Montgomery County, Tennessee, and it was registered under an agreed order.
The father then asked the Tennessee court to modify the child’s schedule and asked for supervised visitation. The mother and her new husband then moved to terminate the father’s parental rights and for stepparent adoption.
The trial court first denied the wife’s petition, and then turned to the question of modifying the residential schedule. That case was scheduled for trial in late 2020. The trial court granted the father’s petition. It found that the mother’s cutting off the visitation was a material change which warranted the change of visitation. It also found that the father owed $5274 in past child support under the Kentucky decree, but reduced the father’s obligation to $116 per month, retroactive to 2017. Overall, the mother received a judgment of $7672, to be paid $100 per month. The trial court denied the mother’s request for pre- and postjudgment interest, on the grounds that the mother’s actions caused the delay. The mother then appealed to the Tennessee Court of Appeals.
The appeals court first held that the Tennessee court had jurisdiction over the case, but held that the change could not be retroactive prior to the filing of the request. Therefore, it asked the trial court to recalculate the amount of the arrearage. The appeals court then affirmed the modification of the residential schedule.
The appeals court also affirmed the lower court’s findings as to the parties’ incomes.
The appeals court then turned to the question of interest on the past child support. This was governed by Kentucky law, which provides for 8% judgment on unpaid child support, and 12% after judgment is entered. The trial court had denied interest, and the Court of Appeals held that the Kentucky provision for postjudgment interest was mandatory. However, with respect to the prejudgment interest, it held that denying this award was proper, since the delay had been caused by the mother. Therefore, it remanded the case for a calculation of postjudgment interest, dating to December 2020, the date of the relevant Tennessee order.
The mother was denied her request for attorney’s fees on appeal. With these modifications, the Court of Appeals remanded the case to the trial court.
No. M2021-00116-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Sep. 13, 2022).
See original opinion for exact language. Legal citations omitted.
To learn more, see Child Support Collection & Enforcement in Tennessee.
See also Tennessee Parenting Plans and Child Support Worksheets: Building a Constructive Future for Your Family featuring actual examples of parenting plans and child support worksheets from real cases available on Amazon.com.