If you are currently going through a divorce involving children or you are involved in a paternity case, child support will likely become a central issue that needs to be resolved. Like most other states, the state of Alabama recognizes the obligation of both parents to support their child, whether the parents are married or not. The amount of support the parents are ordered to pay is determined by a complex formula based on a variety of factors.
Alabama “Income Shares” Model
Alabama follows the “income shares” model to establish the support payment for each child. Under this model, each parent should contribute the same proportion of their income (toward the support of their child) as if the parents were together. Using the “income shares” model, the court estimates the amount an intact two-parent family would likely spend on the child, then divides it proportionally between the two parents, based on their respective incomes. The parent with the higher income is responsible to pay a larger percentage of support, and the parent with the lower income is responsible for a smaller percentage.
Child support is calculated with the “income shares” model using a four-step process:
- Add the gross incomes of the two parents together to determine the total combined gross income.
- Apply the total income from step one to the Alabama Schedule of Basic Support Guidelines by matching the total income with the number of children (as shown on the chart). This gives you the total child support obligation.
- Adjust the total child support obligation by adding additional expenses such as extraordinary medical costs, work-related child care expenses, and health insurance.
- Take the final support obligation calculation and divide it proportionally between the two parents based on their percentage of the income. For example, if one parent earns 70% of the total combined gross income, they are responsible for 70% of the child support payment. The other parent is then responsible for 30%. It is presumed that the parent the child is living with (custodial parent) spends their percentage of the support payment directly on the child.
Deviations from the “Income Shares” Model
There may be factors and circumstances in which the court allows a deviation from the child support calculated using the four-step process. These may include:
- Parents who have shared physical custody, or cases in which the non-custodial parent has extensive visitation rights far beyond what is customary;
- When one parent incurs extraordinary transportation costs in order to visit the child;
- Unearned income or assets received by (or on behalf) of the child;
- College expenses incurred after the child reaches the age of majority;
- Other factors that the court may determine to be in the best interest of the child (for the purposes of child support).
June 2018 Changes to Alabama Child Support Calculations
On June 1, 2018, a new amendment was added to the Alabama Rule 32 Child Support Guidelines. This amendment affects cases in which the child receives third-party payments. One common example would be Social Security payments made to minor children when a parent is on Social Security Disability. Rule 32 now takes the amount paid by a third party to the child and subtracts that amount from the non-custodial parent’s monthly child support obligation.
It is important to note that if you have previously gone through a divorce or paternity case, your child support payment will not be automatically adjusted based on these changes. You will need to speak to an attorney about petitioning the court for a child support modification. Keep in mind also that courts already have the authority to consider unearned income or assets received by (or on behalf of) the child when determining child support, so this may already be factored in to your current payment.
Contact a Skilled Alabama Family Law Attorney
During a divorce or paternity case, it is important to ensure that the children are taken care of. It is also important that support payments are fair and do not put an undue burden on one party or the other. If you are involved in a paternity case or divorce with children in Alabama, or you want to modify your current support payments, you need experienced legal counsel by your side strongly advocating for your rights and interests, and the interests of your child(ren).
At Haygood, Cleveland, Pierce Thompson & Short LLP, we have several decades of experience handling divorce and family law cases in Alabama. Our lawyers have an in-depth understanding of this area of law, and we work closely with our clients to resolve family legal matters in a way that fully protects their interests while preserving important relationships. For a consultation with our office, call us today at (334) 821-3892, or you may send a secure and confidential message through our online contact form.