Kibbe. v. Kibbe (Tennessee 2020)
The court has discretion to craft a child support award that will best support a child with extraordinary medical needs as long as the court considers all available resources. The parents’ initial divorce decree addressed the needs of their special needs child. The mother primarily cared for the child, and the father was granted visitation. Several years later, the father filed to modify alimony and/or eliminate alimony or, alternatively to reduce alimony in relation to any increase in child support. The trial court heard testimony that the father rarely visited the child. The mother couldn’t leave the child without care, so she worked when the child was at school. Otherwise, she had to hire respite care. The trial court declined to modify child support. The modified order included a provision that if the father failed to exercise visitation, he would be charged for the rate of a respite care provider. The father appealed. The appellate court upheld the trial court’s order regarding the child support and parenting time. It found the cost of respite care qualified as an extraordinary special need and was in the child’s best interests. It found the trial court considered all the available resources before making the order.