A few years ago I wrote a blog post about the term “standard parenting”. As I explained in that post, the term was used in the Tennessee Child Support Guidelines to describe the old typical arrangement where one parent had a child most of the time, and the other parent only visited with the child every other weekend, half the holidays, and a couple weeks in the summer. Since this was seen as “standard”, this would be used as an assumption for the purposes of setting child support if there was no other schedule ordered by a court.
The problem was that a term that was meant to be descriptive, somehow became a directive and often applied as a cookie-cutter solution that would fit anybody. Frequently attorneys would bebop up to me and say “You’re client is OK with standard parenting, right?” They acted like there wasn’t a statute that required the parties and the courts to fashion a customized parenting plan that would work best for the parents and children. However, there is such a statute, and I have another old blog post that talks about how parenting time is set by the family law courts.
Maximum participation possible!
A few years ago, Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-6-106 was updated to say that “the court shall order a custody arrangement that permits both parents to enjoy the maximum participation possible in the life of the child”. This actually wasn’t a big change in the law, as our appellate courts had already pretty well established that the trial courts should be crafting parenting schedules that fit each unique situation. However, adding this phrase to the statute solidified the notion that this “standard parenting” scheme was behind us.
Sure enough, fewer people are being saddled with only being able to see their kids every other weekend. Judges are commonly balancing the time between the two parents, so long as the kids can still get to school timely and the parent’s working schedule allows. The division isn’t always necessarily 50/50, but plans where the time is evenly divided are becoming more common.
“Standard Parenting” gets a revision.
In 2020, the State of Tennessee adopted new child support guidelines. There’s a bunch of changes that I need to put in another post, but the change that this post is about is the new definition of “standard parenting”. The new definition is as follows:
For purposes of this chapter, “standard parenting” refers to a child support case in which all of the children supported under the order spend more than fifty percent (50%) of the time with the same PRP. There is only one (1) PRP and one (1) ARP in a standard parenting case.
I still hate the term, because this creates the impression that an unbalanced division of time is normal, and a plan that equally divides the time with the kids between the two parents is non-standard. Abnormal. Against best practices. Personally, I would have liked it much better if the term “standard parenting” had been tossed in the garbage and some other term was used. Call 50/50 parenting schedules “balanced” and any plan where one parent has the kids more often than the other “unbalanced”. How about that?
However, the good news is progress is taking place. The updated child support rules have other provisions that can be very helpful, particularly to lower income parents.
Call me for help
If you’re engaged in a custody battle, divorce, or other matter in which child support is an issue. Contact me (phone calls are best) and we’ll talk about how we can get your case resolved.