- Types of parenting plans
- The caption
- Residential parenting time
- Decision making
- Financial support
- Primary residence for legal purpose
- Disagreement of modification
- Rights of parents
- Notice regarding parental relocation
- Parent education class
- Completing the forms
- How to access computer worksheets
This workbook explains each section of the parenting plan in detail. The laws and regulations regarding child support are continuously revised, so you will have to check with your attorney or the Department of Human Services website for any changes in the calculation of child support. Each section of a parenting plan is explained.
You may wish to make a copy of your parenting plan form. You can fill out the form as your first draft and recopy it in its final form so that it can be filed with the court. All information in this workbook is general in nature. Every family is unique with their own specific situation. This workbook is not intended to give ANY legal advice that applies to your situation. If you have any questions about how the law applies to your specific situation, it is suggested that you consult with an attorney.
Download the Parenting Plan
Proposed Parenting Plan:
If both parents cannot sit down and work out a plan for shared parenting, one parent can file a proposal for a parenting plan. This parenting plan sets out your proposal for the judge and the other parent.
Agreed Parenting Plan:
If both parents can reach an agreement on every item in a parenting plan, both can sign an agreed parenting plan and file it with the court.
Court-Ordered Parenting Plans:
If both parents are not able to reach an agreement, the court may have to decide on the terms of a parenting plan. The court will read the proposed plans from each parent. If only one parent has filed a proposed plan, the judge typically uses that plan as the beginning point and then will make changes that the judge believes are in your children's best interests after hearing from both parents and their witnesses.
The boxes at the very top of the parenting plan contain the "caption." The caption tells the clerk where to file your parenting plan.
1. Check the appropriate box as to whether this is a Proposed Parenting Plan (your proposal); an Agreed Parenting Plan (signed by both of you); or a Court-Ordered Plan (after a hearing before the judge).
2. In the box called "file no." you do not have to write this number. This is the number assigned to your file by the clerk.
3. The box entitled "plaintiff" is the name of the person who first files or if this is an agreed plan, the parent who agrees to be the plaintiff. The "defendant" is the parent served or the other parent. Write each full name and check the appropriate box "mother" and "father."
4. Check the box if this is a new plan, a modification of a Parenting Plan or modification of an existing order that had no parenting plan. After the caption, you must indicate whether this is the first parenting plan or whether you are changing an existing parenting plan. For most divorces, this will be a new plan.
Fill out the names of all children and their birthdays, unless they are from a prior marriage or relationship.
A. Residential Time With Each Parent:
The parent who has the children more than one-half of the time is the primary residential parent. If there is exactly equal time between the parents, the parent with the lowest income is the primary residential parent. The other parent is called the alternative residential parent.
When you have completed the residential schedule and you know which days the children are with each parent, you must count up the days the children will be with each parent. "Days" are defined in the child support guidelines as the majority of a 24-hour, 12-hour or more, generally with an overnight. This can be done after you fill out the Day-to-Day Schedule.
B. Day-to-Day Schedule:
This section provides for the time that each parent will spend with the child on a weekday and on the weekend. The schedule will vary depending on the age and needs of the child, on the parents' work schedule, the capability of each parent to care for the child, the space available to properly keep the child overnight, and the distance between the parents, whether the child attends school and how well the parents get along. Every family is unique.
Traditionally, one parent has had the child during the week and the other parent every other weekend. Some parents will pick up the child from school and return to school on a Monday morning. Some parents will have the child for a portion of a week. Some will alternate the child every week. The key is what is most beneficial to the children. If the children's schedules are very different, such as a pre-school child and a teenager, you may have to work out different schedules. The key to success with your children is consistency. Children are flexible, but they need to know when and where they are at each parent's homes. This is particularly true at the beginning of the separation between the parties and post-divorce.
Fill out the specific times and days in the schedule.
Most parents alternate holidays. There are major holidays which are days off work for many parents. These are New Year's Day, Easter, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, and Thanksgiving weekend. Christmas or winter vacation will be discussed separately. There are also minor holidays where children are not in school, but many parents are still working. These are: Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Presidents Day, Columbus Day, and Veterans Day. Moms always have the children on Mother's Day and dads always have them on Father's Day.
You should identify when the holiday begins and ends. At the bottom of the column of holidays, it says that the holiday begins the night before at 6 p.m., unless otherwise noted. If that is not what you mean, then you must note that in the line below the note. (If you are going to have the children on Easter, does that mean Easter Sunday or Easter weekend?)
If you do not want a schedule for a particular holiday listed in the chart, cross it out. If you want the children to be with you on a particular holiday every year, write in "EVERY", such as Mother's Day and Father's Day. For those holidays which should be alternated, write "EVEN" for one parent and "ODD" for the other parent. If the parents want to alternate, simply alternate EVEN and ODD down each column.
Many parents split the children's birthdays. If this is what you would like to do, write down "HALF." If not, write your own schedule. Add any other holidays you would like to include.
Increasingly, schools are on a year-round schedule. Take that into consideration, when filling out the schedule.
Christmas is not on this list because it is covered in another section of the parenting plan.
D. Fall Vacation/Year Round School Year:
Some school systems have a fall break. If your children have a fall break, fill out the section below. If there is no fall break, cross out the entire block. As mentioned above, if the children have multiple longer breaks, you may wish to provide an alternate schedule than that used during the school year, when the children are in school every week.
E. Christmas or Winter Vacation:
This schedule presumes that each parent has approximately one week before and one week after Christmas. Many persons alternate these weeks, with one parent having Christmas Eve and one having Christmas Day. Think about when your family typically celebrates Christmas, and when the other parent's family typically celebrates it. If you live in the same area, one parent can have the children on Christmas morning and the other parent can pick them up on Christmas afternoon. For this reason, you may not want to alternate Christmas so one parent has the children for the entire Christmas break one year, and the other parent has them the next. Or, you create a tradition that each family replicates each year. If one parent lives in another state, you might simply alternate the entire winter break. Just remember, Christmas day is a time for children. Don't stress them too much by dragging them back and forth. They will already have double gifts — a benefit of being a kid in a divorce.
If you have a special agreement, write it out on the space provided.
F. Spring Break:
You may wish to make specific arrangements for time with the children during their spring break from school. Some parents alternate the spring break from year-to-year. Some parents divide the spring break into two parts, and the children are with both parents during part of the spring break.
During the summer, parents are not bound by school schedules, and can be more flexible. Where one parent has the children for a longer time during the school year, the other parent may want to have two weeks without interruption or a month or six weeks with alternating weekends. With young children, it may be better to space out the weeks during the summer. With older children, they may be at camp or have very defined activities. Typically, the children are returned to the parent having primary responsibility one week before school begins. The beginning of the school year is always hectic, buying supplies, school clothes and getting the children back into a routine.
If schedule states two weeks in the summer or one month, the parent must give some kind of notice as to that date. Specify that date in the plan to avoid squabbling.
H. Transportation Arrangements:
Low-level conflict parents pick up and deliver their children at each parent's houses. Specify who picks up and who delivers the children. If this encounter leads to arguments, consider picking up the children from school or daycare and returning them to school or daycare on either an overnight or a weekend on Monday. If the children are young or the parents live far apart, a central location such as Wal-Mart or McDonald's is helpful. If the parties have long distance costs, decide how those costs will be paid. If not, cross that part out.
Use common sense. If there is a known stressor (such as a new girlfriend or boyfriend), leave them at home. The children should not get a stomach ache simply switching homes.
If a parent does not have a valid driver's license, under Tennessee law, that parent cannot drive with the children.
I. Supervised Parenting Time:
It is not normal for a judge to order that one parent must be supervised when he or she is with the children. If there are safety issues, such as severe alcohol abuse, drug abuse, or child abuse issues, a judge may consider supervised parenting time.
If you truly believe that your children are in danger when they are with the other parent, fill out this section with a proposed supervisor, who is not you.
***WARNING*** If this situation applies to you, it is strongly recommended that you consult with an attorney.
J. Other Provision:
The remaining section is for any provisions that might be unique to your family. If you have no other provisions, cross this section out.
When a parent has the children in the schedule you filled out in Part I, that parent will make the day-to-day decisions. If there is a medical emergency while the children are with a parent, that parent must make emergency decisions. However, that parent must notify the other parent about the emergency as soon as possible.
A parenting plan must provide for who makes the major decisions that are not emergency decisions. The parenting plan suggests that you must decide whether the Mother or the Father (or both) makes education decisions, non-emergency health decisions, religious upbringing and extracurricular activities. Under "other" you should think about issues which could be the source of arguments- for example, who decides to cut the daughter's hair or pierce ears. You can also make these decisions "joint decisions."
A. Child Support:
Child support is set by the Tennessee guidelines. These guidelines changed completely on January 18, 2005. They will be modified by the 2006 Tennessee Legislature.
The new guidelines look at the income of both parents. Both parents' income are combined, and then percentages are determined. These percentages are used to determine each parent's share of the support obligation, the share of the cost of work-related child care, the share of the cost of insurance premiums and the share of the cost of medical and dental care not covered by insurance.
At the end of these instructions, you will find a list of documents the judge might want to see to calculate child support. You will also find additional instructions for completing the child support worksheets using a computer. It is extremely difficult to complete these worksheets without the assistance of a computer. The new guidelines are complex, and this booklet does not discuss all of the complexities to calculate child support. The following is an overview of the new guidelines and information you will need to calculate child support under most circumstances.
First, both the mother and father's gross income must be determined.
Gross income is defined as more than a parent's base pay. Gross income includes: wages, salaries, commissions, bonuses, overtime payments, dividends, severance pay, pensions, interest, trust income, annuities, capital gains, Social Security benefits, workers' compensation benefits, judgments for personal injuries, unemployment, gifts, prizes, lottery winnings, alimony, and income from self-employment. Depreciation, home offices, excessive promotional, travel, car expenses or personal expenses should not be considered business expenses when determining gross income from self-employment. Benefits like a company car, on-post housing, and meal cards are added to income. Members of the military must use all income, including BAH, BAS, family separation pay, flight pay, and other similar entitlements.
If you do not know the other parent's gross income, put down the amount you believe he or she is capable of making, based upon their past income. If you have no idea of that parent's income capabilities, and there is no other reliable information, the court may use the Tennessee averages, which is $35,851 for fathers (averages out to $2,987.58 per month) and $26,450 for mothers (averages out to $2,204.17 per month).
Second, the number of days the children are with each parent will affect child support.
The parent who has the children more than 50 percent of the time is the primary residential parent. The other parent is called the alternative residential parent. If the alternative residential parent has the children for more than 90 days, he or she will get a small reduction in child support. If the alternative residential parent has the children for less than 55 days that parent will pay more child support. "Days" are defined as at least 12 hours or more of a 24-hour day and the parent must spend a reasonable amount of resources on the children. Even if the parents have equal time, the parent with the greater income will still pay support to the other parent, even in a 50/50 arrangement.
Third, how much are the medical and dental insurance premiums for the children and which parent will pay them?
You will have to know the amount of the premiums for the children alone and whether this amount is payroll deducted or paid like any other bill.
Fourth, how much does each parent pay for work-related child care?
Child care must be work-related. Child care while a parent is going to school in order to increase their income counts as "work-related" child care. Child care should be averaged over the year to find an average monthly amount. Child care during the summer is usually higher than child care during the school year. Finally, are there other children being supported by either parent?
The child support worksheets include a separate worksheet (called the Credit Worksheet) which reduces a parent's gross income if that parent is supporting children from another relationship. There are three categories:
- Previous child support orders which are being paid;
- Children who live with a parent more than 50 percent of the time; and
- Children who are being supported by one of the parents, but who do not live with that parent more than 50 percent of the time.
If there is a previous child support order, you must know the amount which has been ordered to be paid each month for ongoing child support. Any amount being paid toward back child support does not count.
If a parent has children from another relationship who live with the parent more than 50 percent of the time, the Credit Worksheet will automatically calculate the credit for those children.
If a parent has children from another relationship who do not live with the parent more than 50 percent of the time, the Credit Worksheet will also automatically calculate the credit. However, the question is whether the parent is actually paying that amount for the support of these children. Only monetary contributions will count. Buying things for the children such as clothing, diapers and food are usually not counted.
Fill in the blanks for purposes of the Parenting Plan as well as for the calculation. This helps the court to approve the Plan and for future modification.
Once you have determined the amount from the worksheet to calculate child support, fill in the blanks as to the amount, the payor, the frequency and the date of payment. If the parties agree to a different number than in the Child Support Guidelines, this deviation must be written out on the Parenting Plan.
If the payor of the child support has not paid all the support under a prior order, fill in the amount owed to the date of the Parenting Plan. This plan awards a judgment. The payoff of the Retroactive Support is paid in installments until the judgment is paid. Also include the date of the first payment.
The final section states whether the child support is paid directly to the parent by check or by direct deposit or to the Child Support Receipting Unit, which requires a Wage Assignment, which is another document attached to the Parenting Plan.
B. Federal Income Tax Exemption:
Fill out which parent will take the income tax exemption. One parent may take both exemptions; alternate years with the other parent or each parent can take one or more children. Since the IRS assumes that the parent who provides one-half of the child's support takes the exemption, it will be necessary for the other parent to sign an IRS form on a year-by-year basis. NOTE: The child support schedule assumptions in the guidelines (1240-2-4-.03 (6)(b) ) assume that the parent receiving the child support will get the tax exemptions for the child.
C. Proof Income and Child Care:
Because child support is based on both parents' income, both are now required to send proof of income to the other parent every year. If the parent with the children is receiving any form of benefits, for example Families First, food stamps or TennCare, both parents must complete a form required by the Department of Human Services showing proof of income.
D. Health and Dental Insurance:
Check the box as to which parent will carry the health insurance on your children. The parent who covers the children must send proof every year to the other parent. Fill in which parent(s) will pay the uncovered expenses either fully, split or pro rata in accordance with their income percentages, which you calculated on the child support worksheet. If available, one parent may cover dental, orthodontic or optical insurance.
E. Life Insurance:
If both parents agree, fill in the amount of life insurance each parent should carry on the children. If you currently have life insurance, the other parent (or a trustee for the children) should be named as a beneficiary. When the children are no longer minors, you would be free to change beneficiaries.
Even though Tennessee divorce law emphasizes "shared parenting," other Tennessee laws still use the terms "sole custody" or "joint custody." This section says that for purposes of other laws, the parent who has the children more than 50 percent of the time is the primary custodian. If the parents have "joint decision making." then for purposes of health insurance or other insurance, they can be considered to have "joint custody."
Children change, work schedules change, and unforeseen situations arise. No one can anticipate every single situation that might come until your children reach adulthood. Parenting plans are not intended to last until your children reach adulthood without making some changes. Check which method of resolution you choose: mediation, arbitration, which is similar to court without appeal or court process if there has been an order of protection. If you have to modify your Parenting Plan, you must go through mediation or arbitration before returning to court, unless there was domestic violence. The parents may agree on a mediator or arbitrator or the court will provide such services on a sliding scale.
You must check the box showing how the other parent will be notified that you wish to change the parenting plan. You can do this by written notice, certified mail or some other method. Certified mail, return receipt requested, is usually the best option.
Tennessee law provides for parental rights. Your parenting plan lists all of those rights. Make yourself familiar with these rights, because if you interfere with the other parent's rights, you can find yourself facing contempt of court charges. Contempt charges can lead to fines, jail time, and denial of parental rights can be a basis to change the residential schedule.
If you believe that there are safety issues concerning your children, a judge can modify these parental rights. If significant safety issues are present, you should consult an attorney.
The general rule in Tennessee is that if a parent is going to move more than 100 miles away from the other parent (who remains in Tennessee) or is going to move out of the state, that parent must send a notice to the other parent. This applies particularly to the parent who is planning on moving the children. If your spouse is not in Tennessee at the time of your divorce, this provision does not apply to you.
The parent who is planning to move must send a notice by certified mail informing the other parent about the move. The parenting plan tells you what information must be in the notice. This notice must be sent at least 60 days prior to the move. Once the other parent has received the notice, he or she has 30 days to file a petition with the court to stop the move. If no petition is filed, the parent may move with the children.
Tennessee law currently requires parents who are going through a divorce to take a four-hour class on the impact of divorce on children. Check with your court clerk to find out where and when this class is offered.
This part of the parenting plan tells the court if one or both of you have already taken the class. You must take this class before your final hearing on the divorce. If the other parent does not take the class voluntarily, the court may order him or her to take the class within 60 days of the final hearing, or be subject to contempt charges.
If you have filled out each section you now have a draft or final version of your parenting plan. The next step is to decide if you need to file a proposed parenting plan or whether you in the other parent can agree on a parenting plan.
If you file a proposed parenting plan, you must sign it and have your signature notarized. Make a copy to send to the other parent, and a copy for yourself. Take the original (the one with your notarized signature) and file it with the court clerk.
If you can reach an agreement and file an agreed parenting plan, both parents sign the last page. Make copies for each of you, and file the one with your original signatures with the court. If you are in agreement, your signatures do not need to be notarized. When you take it to the court clerk for filing, ask whether you need to schedule a hearing for the judge to approve your plan.
If the other parent will not come to an agreement with you for an agreed parenting plan, you will have to ask the judge to decide the terms of a court-ordered parenting plan. At the final hearing for divorce, if the judge makes a decision about a parenting plan, you must prepare a court ordered parenting plan for the judge to sign.
The Department of Human Services has some great tutorials on how to calculate the worksheets.
The Department of Human Services has created a calculator and placed it on their website. This calculator takes you through 10 easy steps to calculate child support. The steps are easy IF you have the required information.
This is the information you need to use the calculator:
Name of Mother and Father.
If the children live with one (or both) of the parents, leave "non-parent caretaker" blank. If the children live with a relative or a friend or are in state custody, you will need to fill in this block.
TCSES # is generally only used by the child support enforcement office. Most people do not have a TCSES number or do not know their TCSES number. If you don't have one (or don't know it) leave it blank.
Docket number is the file number on your court case. You can find this at the top of any document which has been filed with the court. If you haven't filed yet, leave this area blank.
Court that will be deciding child support. Typically this is Chancery, Circuit or Juvenile Court.
Fill in the name of each child involved in this case, the date of birth and the number of days this child will be with the mother each year, and the number of days this child will be with the Father each year. The total number of days should add up to 365. If you are not sure, but want a beginning calculation, use standard parenting figures which are 285 days for the primary residential parent and 80 days for the alternative residential parent.
Enter the mother's gross monthly income, and one-half the amount of self-employment tax she actually pays (if any). Enter the Mother's gross monthly income, and one-half the amount of self-employment tax she actually pays (if any).
Does either parent pay child support, which is court ordered? If yes, fill out the child's name and date of birth and the average monthly amount of support that is actually paid. If no, go directly to step five.
Does either parent have other children living in their home more than 50 percent of the time, who they are legally obligated to support? If yes, fill out the child's name and date of birth. If no, go directly to step six.
Does either parent have other children they are legally obligated to support who do not have a pre-existing support order, and who live with someone else more than 50 percent of the time? If yes, fill out the child's name and date of birth and the amount of support that has been paid (average it monthly) that parent can actually document. Purchasing things for the children will not count as support, only monetary support.
If either parent pays for medical or dental insurance for the children, figure the amount of the premium which is paid to insure only the children who are involved in this case. If you don't know how much it costs to add these children to the policy, take the number of dependents who are covered by the policy and pro-rate the amounts.
If either parent pays for work-related child care during the year, average the monthly expense. Don't forget to average the amounts paid during the summer as well as the amounts paid during the school year.
If either parent pays for medical insurance, dental insurance or work-related child care by payroll deduction, enter the amount of the monthly payroll deduction.
If you have a current child support order, and you would like to find out whether you might qualify for a modification under the new guidelines, enter the amount of the current child support order.
You are a low income parent if your gross income is at or below the federal poverty level for a single person, and you are not voluntarily underemployed or unemployed. In 2005, that amount is $9310.00.
If any of the children involved in this action have recurring medical expenses, which are expenses you can count on every month, enter that amount here. For example, if a child has braces there might be a monthly payment. If a child has a regular prescription, the out-of-pocket cost of that prescription would be a recurring payment. If the child sees a doctor or therapist on a regular schedule, that could be a recurring payment.
Step Ten: Calculate the worksheets
When you have completed the calculation, print your worksheet. The current website (January 2005) does not allow you to save the document on your computer. If you need to change some numbers, you will have to start over.