Child Support Attorney in Auburn
Custody and child support are some of the most frequently debated and contested issues among divorcing or unmarried parents in Alabama. Child support is meant to be equitable among the parents and provide the means for meeting your children’s needs.
The state of Alabama determines child support according to a pre-established formula. However, there are many elements to these decisions that are ambiguous and up for debate.
Whether you are a parent seeking to collect child support or need legal help protecting your rights against unmanageable and unfair payments, the experienced family law attorneys at Haygood, Cleveland, Pierce, Thompson, and Short LLP, can represent your interests with commitment and compassion.
Obtaining Child Support Payments in Auburn, Alabama
Alabama law requires that both parents share in the financial support of their children. Alabama’s Child Support Guidelines determine what child support payments will be in this state. These guides take into consideration the parent’s custody arrangement as well as their respective financial circumstances.
These payments are often based on complex calculations, which can favor one or another parent if done incorrectly. Your child support attorney will ensure that all of the financial data used to calculate these figures is appropriate and accurate.
A parent might sometimes attempt to mislead the other or unduly influence the outcome by presenting misleading financial information. Our attorneys have the resources and experience necessary to investigate and locate any hidden assets or sources of income so that your children receive the support they need and deserve.
Calculating Child Support Payments
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.
Enforcement of Child Support Orders in Auburn, Alabama
Unfortunately, obtaining an order for child support is just half the battle for some parents. Sadly, one parent may not pay their child support payments on time or at all. When this becomes a normal occurrence, the children suffer.
If you have a child support order in hand and are owed back payments from a spouse, our skilled and aggressive family law attorneys can help you take the legal action necessary to enforce a current order. Alabama law provides several remedies and penalties for a parent that fails to make their required payments, and our legal team can take advantage of these for your benefit.
What to Do If Your Ex is Not Paying Child Support
Check Your Child Support Order
Double-check your child support order for amounts, dates, and other requirements. When you speak with your attorney, you want to know exactly how many payments your coparent is behind and how much you are owed.
Keep track of every missed payment. It’s helpful to keep a separate notebook documenting missed payments, communication with your ex-partner regarding those payments, and any other relevant information.
Speak to Your Lawyer
With your notebook and list of missed payments in hand, it’s time to talk to your attorney. If you don’t already have a family law attorney, you definitely want one to fight for your child support. This is particularly true if your ex-partner has an attorney. They have a multitude of tools at their disposal to push back court dates, delay payments, argue for lower payments, and otherwise deny your child the financial support they deserve.
Your attorney will be able to take a thorough look at your court order and documented non-payments and use that information to create a plan. In some cases, it just takes a sternly worded letter to the co-parent in arrears to get payments started back up. In others, you will need to go back to court or explore other options.
Explore Options, Including Garnishments, Tax Refunds, and Liens
If your attorney cannot get the parent in arrears to pay up through communication alone, there are plenty of other ways you can get what you are owed.
Perhaps the easiest way to get child support is a court-ordered garnishment. This takes the payments out of the co-parent’s paychecks and deposits them into your account. This ensures that you are paid before your ex-partner gets their hands on their money, and it does so without you having to bug them for payments every month.
If the amount owed reaches a certain threshold, the government may intervene when tax season comes. They will intercept the ex-partner’s tax refund, send you what you are owed, and allow them to take the rest. However, this may not be an immediate solution if you cannot wait months and months for payments. Your attorney may want to ask for garnishments and intercept back payments via tax returns.
Defense Against Child Support in Arrears and Child Support Contempt Petitions
Alabama can take a harsh stance against parents who are in child support arrears, and sometimes the penalties do more harm than good. When a parent is sent to jail, or their wages are garnished to the point that they can’t pay other bills, it can defeat the purpose of getting back everything that is due. In many cases, the children will continue to suffer thanks to animosity and added financial hardship.
If you are likely to owe back support payments after a paternity or divorce case, our child support attorneys can help make sure that the order is appropriate to your ability to pay.
If the other parent has misled the court in any way, we can also investigate and bring the truth to light. This could be regarding income and assets or an assertion that child support wasn’t paid when it actually was.
Ignoring child support issues will allow them to get worse with time. Our family law attorneys can fight for the benefits you deserve but also defend clients who are facing jail time for failure to pay.
Child Support Modifications
If situations change for either parent, it might be necessary to request a modification of your child support agreement. You and your ex can attempt to work out a new agreement and then present it to the court for approval. If this isn’t possible, you can petition the court for a modification.
Alabama courts will only agree to modify child support orders if there is a “material change” in circumstances. The instances in which this might occur include:
- The parent paying child support is spending substantially more time with the children
- A parent has a substantial change in income
- There is a significant financial hardship of the parent paying support
- There is a change in the cost of living in the area
Auburn, Alabama Family Law Attorneys Working for You
Children are innocent bystanders when it comes to family law matters. If you have a child support dispute, it’s always best to resolve these issues as quickly and amicably as possible, while not sacrificing your rights or financial freedom. This may seem like a tall order, but our experienced Alabama child support attorneys can help.
At Haygood, Cleveland, Pierce, Thompson, and Short, LLP, we understand that each legal decision has consequences and have a passion for the work we do on behalf of families and their loved ones. We are a full-service family law firm and would be pleased to speak with you about your situation and legal options.
Contact our Auburn office now at 334.821.3892 or reach us online to schedule your initial consultation.