By Jedidiah McKeehan
Whether you realize this or not, if you have children under the age of 18 years of age, then under Tennessee law you are considered those children’s guardian.
This is a different determination from having custody of a child, being someone’s guardian means that are responsible for a child’s care, nurture, welfare, education and support. Both parents have equal duties in regard to children. Even if you have no visitation rights with your child, you are considered their guardian, and are responsible for supporting them.
So, a parent may not have custody of a child, but they are still considered a child’s guardian, in that they are expected to provide monies and other support for a child until that child reaches the age of 18. Actually, it’s even more specific than that. Pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 34-1-102, “Parents shall continue to be responsible for the support of each child for whom they are responsible after the child reaches 18 years of age if the child is in high school. The duty of support shall continue until the child graduates from high school or the class of which the child is a member when the child attains 18 years of age graduates, whichever occurs first.”
There are exceptions to this if the child is considered a special needs child, and in those cases, the duty to support lasts a few years longer, however, your obligation to support your children generally lasts until the child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever comes later.
Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties. He works in many areas, including criminal, divorce, custody, personal injury, landlord-tenant, civil litigation and estate planning. Visit attorney-knoxville.com for more information about this legal issue and other legal issues.