Tennessee Child Support & Overnight Calculations

Tennessee child support is based on overnight totals

Tennessee uses overnight totals in its child support formula to determine the amount of child support in your divorce case.

Besides income, overnight totals are a key part of the Tennessee child support formula. Your parenting time directly affects your child support, whether you pay or receive.

Most overnight time totals are estimates (and thus incorrect)

Tennessee attorneys and judges often rely on overnight estimates only, even if they are incorrect, because counting total hours is tedious and time consuming. Divorcing parents often rely on these estimates as well.

Using estimates means your overnight totals are wrong when compared to your actual parenting time schedule. This means your child support amount will not be fair or exact.

How to calculate overnights instead of relying on estimates

To calculate overnights, the easiest and most accurate way is to use software. Without software, you're forced to count each night for a whole year, which is error-prone when you include alternating holidays, summer break, and any changes to the schedule throughout the year.

The leading parenting time calculation software, Custody X Change, can calculate your overnights to see if they were estimated incorrectly.

Calculate Your Overnights Now

Using software, you can also tweak your schedule to see how even little changes affect your total parenting time, and you can see how your overnights change each year due to holidays and other events.

You can also track what actually happens, and show how many hours you've received for any period of time. Historical information is a powerful tool when you request a child support modification or when you request more parenting time.

Fast facts on child custody and child support in Tennessee

In any divorce, Tennessee family courts award custody of the children to one or both parents. Custody is divided into legal custody and physical custody. The total parenting time factors into the child support formula for both sole and shared custody.

Tennessee sole physical custody: The children reside with and are supervised by the residential parent, while the other parent is entitled to scheduled visitations. In Tennessee, sole physical custody is given to the parent with whom the children live with and spend the most time with.

The non-residential parent hosts the children for fewer than 92 overnights, or 25 percent of the time each year.

Tennessee shared physical custody: Each parent has significant periods of physical custody, which allows them frequent and continuing contact with their children. Tennessee law outlines shared custody as any arrangement in which the child has regular and continuing contact with both parents. Parenting time does not have to be equally divided to qualify for shared physical custody.  

The non-residential parent must host the children for 92 overnights or more each year to qualify for shared custody.

Tennessee child support formula and parenting time percentages

Tennessee family courts use formulas that consider both parents' incomes and the needs of the child to arrive at a monthly child support amount.  A parenting time adjustment is given based on shared custody.

Sole custody formula: The total income from the non-residential parent is put into the formula. Certain deductions from that total are allowed. To be considered a sole custody case, the non-residential parent spends fewer than 92 days per year, or less than 25 percent of the time, with the children.

There is no parenting time credit given for sole custody situations. The residential parent receives child support from the non-residential parents according to Tennessee law.

Shared custody formula: A different formula is used for shared custody child support calculations. Both household incomes figure into the formula, unlike the one for sole custody. In Tennessee, when the family court orders shared physical custody, the non-residential parent must host the children for 92 days per year or more.

The more overnights, the greater the credit is toward child support.

Examples of sole child custody and Tennessee child support

Consider the hypothetical case of Robert and Mary. Robert's adjusted income is $4,000 per month, while Mary's adjusted monthly income is $2,400. They have two children.

See how the child support amounts change in these examples:

  • Scenario #1: Robert is the non-residential parent in this sole custody case, and is scheduled to host the children for fewer than 92 days per year. He pays $786 in child support each month to Mary.
  • Scenario #2: Mary is the non-residential parent and hosts the children for fewer than 92 days per year. She pays $457 in child support to Robert.
In Tennessee sole custody cases, the non-residential parent pays child support to the residential parent, regardless of income.
Examples of the shared custody formula in Tennessee child support

Consider the hypothetical case of Robert and Mary. Robert's adjusted income is $4,000 per month, while Mary's adjusted monthly income is $2,400. They have two children.

See how the child support amounts change in these examples:

  • Scenario #1: Robert hosts the children for 93 days, just over the minimum to qualify for shared physical custody. He pays $781 in child support per month to Mary.
  • Scenario #2: Robert hosts the children for 125 days. He pays $618 in child support per month to Mary.
  • Scenario #3: Robert hosts the children for 145 days. He pays $517 in child support per month to Mary.
  • Scenario #4: Robert and Mary agree to a 50/50 split, or 182 days. He pays $326 in child support per month to Mary. This is because he is the higher earner.

In Tennessee shared custody, the non-residential parent pays child support to the residential parent.

In the case of a 50/50 split, the higher earner generally pays child support to the lower earner to ensure the children's standard of living is the same in both locations.

Other factors in the Tennessee child support formula

Tennessee's child support formula uses the following information to calculate your monthly amounts for shared custody child support:

Eligible children: In Tennessee, child support is required for each child until he or she reaches 18 years old, unless the child is still in high school. In that case, child support terminates upon graduation or age 19, whichever comes first.

Gross earnings: Gross earnings are established based on tax records and current pay stubs. Tennessee law uses one parent's income from the equivalent of one full-time job to determine a child support amount in sole custody cases. Both incomes figure into shared custody child support.

Specific deductions: There are some deductions allowed by Tennessee family courts that allow an adjustment of the income, including health insurance premiums for the children, support for other children and child care expenses, for example.

How accurate child support helps your children

Paying accurate child support helps your children in several ways, primarily because it ensures their financial needs are met.

Here are some other reasons why accurate overnight numbers help you, the other parent and your children:

  • It provides a fair way to determine your child support amounts
  • It guarantees the child support amount reflects each parent's responsibilities
  • It allows for modifications if your actual time and scheduled time are different
  • It is compliant with Tennessee law

Your financial obligations to your children don't end with divorce, so whether you are paying or receiving child support, you owe it to your children to pay or receive the proper amount.

Top 5 things to remember about Tennessee child support and overnights

To ensure you are paying or receiving the right amount of child support in Tennessee, remember these 5 things:

  1. Tennessee Child Support Guidelines award sole or shared physical custody based on the number of overnights the non-residential parent receives.
  2. Sole physical custody means that the non-residential parent is scheduled for fewer than 92 days with the children per year.
  3. Parents with more than 92 overnights qualify for a parenting time adjustment based on the number of overnights per year. The parenting adjustment means lower child support amounts.
  4. The non-residential parent pays child support to the residential parent in Tennessee.
  5. In the case of a 50/50 split in parenting time, the higher earner pays child support to the lower earner.

Use Custody X Change software to create a custody schedule that will quickly calculate the total parenting time for the Tennessee child support formula.

As you negotiate what kind of custody schedule will best fit your needs, the software will accurately calculate your overnights.


The leading parenting time calculation software, Custody X Change, can calculate your overnights to see if they were estimated incorrectly.

Calculate Your Time

The leading parenting time calculation software, Custody X Change, can calculate your overnights to see if they were estimated incorrectly.

Calculate Your Overnights Now