If there is a significant variance between the past child support obligation and the prospective obligation, the trial court should comply with Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 240-2-4.-.02(3), unless it makes a written finding to support deviating from the guidelines.
Defendant father appealed from the orders of the Circuit Court for Warren County (Tennessee), which denied his petition for a downward modification of his child support obligation and ordered that his visitation be summarily suspended if he did not make prompt and timely support payments. The trial court found that the father had not demonstrated a material change in circumstances since the original support order. The father was self-employed and had a history of nonpayment of child support.
Whether the trial court properly found that the father's circumstances had not changed when denying his petition to modify his child support obligations?
No. The evidence preponderated against the trial court's conclusions.
The court found that the trial court in the earlier proceeding had not made findings to justify a deviation, so there was no basis for comparison, that the trial court here had not made findings to deviate, and that there was an insufficient record for the court to set support on appeal. The court also held that visitation was not a punitive tool and should not be denied unless there was a finding that the father was financially able to support his children but refused to do so.