When parents get divorced in Alabama, a child support order will almost certainly be part of the final court order. Indeed, both parents in Alabama are responsible for providing for their child(ren) financially. Typically, the court assumes that the custodial parent will provide financial support by virtue of having custody and, therefore, it is the non-custodial parent against whom a child support order is issued.
Of course, how child support is determined isn’t always cut and dry, and there are situations where parents may not have a traditional child custody or child support order. Here’s a look at what you should know about child support in Alabama when parents share joint custody–
How Is Child Support Calculated in Alabama?
Alabama uses the Alabama Child Support Guidelines to calculate child support. The guidelines are based on the idea that the child should receive the same amount of support that they would have received had the parents stayed together. In order to calculate how much a child should receive in support, both parents’ gross incomes are considered, and then support is determined based on the number of children and the total gross income.
For example, parents who make a collective $10,000 per month and have one child should make sure that $1,075 per month is being allocated to that child. Each parent is responsible for the percentage of that support amount in proportion to their income. For example, if custodial parent A contributes 60 percent of the $10,000 and noncustodial parent B contributes 40 percent of the $10,000, then noncustodial parent B would be responsible for 40 percent of the $1,075 in child support, or $430.
Deviating from the Guidelines
The child support guidelines are exactly that: guidelines. They are particularly useful–and most often adhered to–when parents do not share custody of a child, and there is one primary custodial parent and one non-custodial parent. However, recognizing that there are situations where custody is shared and ordering one parent to pay the full child support amount dictated by the guidelines would not necessarily be fair, the court can and does deviate from the guidelines in some situations.
Judges retain the discretion to make a decision that they feel is appropriate for the situation. Judges may also deviate from the guidelines in instances of very high or very low income of parents, as well as situations where the child has special needs.
As such, in response to the question, “Do you have to pay child support in Alabama with joint custody?” the answer most likely is “it depends.” While some form of child support will likely be ordered by the court, this amount may be much less than a person of similar financial means who does not have shared custody would pay.
Modifying Child Support in Alabama
Child support in Alabama is something that is not inflexible or necessarily set until the child reaches 19 years of age; instead, should a significant change in circumstances occur–e.g. The parents go from having a sole custody arrangement to a shared one, or which parent has sole custody changes–then a petition for modification of a child support arrangement is appropriate.
In order for a modification request to be heard, a significant change in circumstances must have occurred since your order was last reviewed or modified. Requesting a change involves filing a petition with the court that includes all of the information about your requested modification. If your ex agrees with the change, it will likely be signed by the court. If your ex does not agree with the change, you may need to go to court and have the matter decided by a judge.
Our Child Support Lawyers Are Here to Help
If you are a parent who is divorcing and is facing the prospect of being ordered to pay child support, how much you pay each month will have a huge impact on your finances. At the law offices of Haygood, Cleveland, Pierce, Thompson & Short, LLP, our lawyers want to make sure that the order issued is fair and just, especially if you and your ex-spouse are sharing child custody. To learn more about child support and joint custody arrangements in our state, how to secure a fair child support order, or how to modify a child support order, reach out to our Alabama lawyers by phone at (334) 821-3892. You can also send us a message online or visit our Auburn office in person.