The case of Carroll v. Carroll No. M2012-00111-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. January 30, 2013), helps Tennessee Divorce Attorneys learn that retroactive child support may not be appropriate when a party has already overpaid support of a spouse in some other way.
The facts of the case are as follows: The parties married and had a child together before they separated in 2006. Husband filed for divorce in April 2007, and Wife did not answer the complaint until June 2010. She then filed an Answer and a Counter-complaint for divorce. A few months later she filed a motion seeking temporary support; Husband entered an agreed order to pay child support in the amount of $628 per month as per the Temporary Parenting Plan. From the time the parties separated in 2006 until August 2010, Husband was making payments of $667 per month for a Chrysler Pacific automobile that Wife drove. However, both were equally responsible for the payment. At an evidentiary hearing in October 2011, Husband alleged that Wife agreed to these payments on the vehicle in lieu of child support. Wife denied agreeing to these terms, but confessed that she did not stop him from paying. In addition, she stated she would have made the car payments herself with any child support given to her by Husband. In the Final Decree of Divorce the court did not find a reason to grant Wife retroactive child support, because it was not appropriate when Husband had been paying for a vehicle she was driving.
Analysis: Wife appealed the trial court's decision denying her request for retroactive child support. Under Tenn. Comp. R. & Reg. 1240-2-4-.06(1)(b)(1), "unless the rebuttable presumption provisions of section T.C.A. 36-5-101(e) have been established by clear and convincing evidence, a judgment for initial support must include an amount of monthly support dating back to when the parties separated." The evidence in this case shows that the Husband satisfied his obligations by paying the loan on the vehicle that the Wife drove. If the child support payments had been made to the Wife, they would have gone towards the same car payment. The payment for the vehicle was $667 per month. Husband was then obligated to pay $628 a month in child support. The payment on the vehicle exceeded the amount he was obligated to pay by $39; therefore, he ended up paying $2,106 more than he was required. The appellate court affirmed the trial court's decision in denying retroactive child support due to these circumstances.