In Setting Child Support Trial Court May Consider Parent’s Extravagant Lifestyle


In Re Conner F., (Tenn.Ct.App., filed July 26, 2017).  Appeal from the Juvenile Court of Hamilton County.

This appeal concerns issues of custody and support of a minor child born in Colorado, but now residing in Tennessee. After determining that jurisdiction was proper in Tennessee, the trial court designated the mother, a resident of Tennessee, the primary residential parent and adopted her proposed parenting plan. Child support for the father, a resident of Colorado, was set at $1,017 per month. An arrearage balance of $23,428.38 was ordered paid at the rate of $200 per month until paid in full.

One of the issues presented by father on appeal was that the trial court improperly calculated his income for determining child support.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court finding with regard to father’s income and wrote as follows:

The record reflected that Father gave many different sworn statements about his monthly income. Specifically, Father claimed that he earned approximately $80,000 in 2011, and then asserted to maternal grandmother while in Costa Rica in 2013 that he had reached his goal of earning $100,000 per year. He also stated that he was earning approximately $14,000 per month from his trucking business, in addition to the rent of $700 his roommate paid him per month. In a sworn document provided to the State of Colorado, Father claimed that he made $5,000 per month. In yet another sworn oath, Father claimed that he only earned $3,200 per month. Father’s bank statements revealed that he went from an average of $6,500 per month to exactly $3,200 the same month that the first child support hearing was held. The court also heard testimony regarding the thousands of dollars Father spent on restaurants, dive shops, bait shops, and trips to Florida out of Father’s “business account.” Additionally, Father had horses and other livestock inconsistent with a limited income. Further, Father maintained exorbitant travel expenses, including last minute flights and SUV rentals while visiting the Child. His testimony that he paid his operations manager the same amount he paid himself also does not align with a business owner who travels and spends excessively.

Based on all of the evidence and testimony, the trial court set Father’s income at $5,000 per month. Father contended that the court did not make the requisite findings to explain how it reached this amount.

In setting child support, the trial court may consider parent’s extravagant lifestyle, including ownership of valuable assets and resources, such as expensive home or automobile that appears inappropriate or unreasonable for income claimed by parent. Gross income is not limited to income shown on parent’s tax return.

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