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How is Child Support Calculated in Alabama?

If you are getting a divorce and you have children, or if you are trying to establish paternity, the issue of child support may be heavy on your mind. In Alabama, regardless of their marital status, both parents are legally responsible for providing financial support to their children.

Typically the noncustodial parent (the parent without primary custody) is responsible for paying child support. And to ensure that child support obligations are fair to all involved, rules have been established that govern the amount of child support that the noncustodial parent should pay.

These calculations may be confusing, but you should have a general idea of how child support is determined. Today, we will take a closer look at child support determination in Alabama and assess your options.

Establishing Paternity

When a child is born in wedlock, the law presumes the child is the natural child of the husband and the wife. If the husband or wife wishes to challenge this, they must present evidence that the husband is not the child’s biological father.

If a child is born out of wedlock, the parents must establish paternity before the courts can determine child support. First, you must file a Petition to Establish Paternity in the court in the county where the child or the alleged father lives. Both parties can then establish paternity by signing an acknowledgment of paternity stating that both parties are the child’s natural parents. If either party refuses to sign the acknowledgment, the courts will require a DNA test to determine paternity.

Calculating Child Support

Alabama determines child support obligation on what is called the “Income Shares Model.” The Income Shares Model calculates child support based on the belief that children should receive the same financial support from each parent just as they would have if their parents remained together.

Calculation Formula

Here is the process to use to determine how much you will be required to pay in child support.

  • Combine each parent’s gross monthly income.
  • Match the parents’ total income with the number of children on the Schedule of Basic Child Support Obligations chart. The number on this chart will determine a basic support figure. 
  • Add expenses such as childcare, and the cost of health insurance.
  • Determine what percentage of the monthly gross income each parent earns.  This number will be used to determine the total obligation of each parent.

For example, Steve and Jane are divorcing and have one child. Jane will have primary custody, and Steve will have visitation rights. Steve earns $4,000 gross per month. Jane earns $2,000 gross per month. Additional expenses total $200 per month.

  • The total gross amount is $6,000.
  • The base obligation from the Schedule of Basic Child Support Obligations chart is $818.
  • Add $200 for the additional expenses for a total of $1,018.
  • Steve’s percentage of the total income is 67%. Multiply 67% x $1,018 for a total of $682 in child support that Steve will be responsible for paying. Steve’s payment may be reduced to the extent he pays for the health insurance or child care expenses. 

Deviating From Child Support Guidelines

The courts can also adjust child support schedules due to particular circumstances. Some of the circumstances that may cause a deviation are:

  • Extensive visitation rights or shared custody
  • One parent bearing the bulk of the cost for transportation related to visitation
  • College expenses incurred before the child turns 18
  • The child inherits or receive a substantial amount of income

There is no standard method for adjusting support in Alabama law, so the courts have broad discretion in these cases. Often times, the calculation above is used in part, and then modified based on the facts. However, if the judge does choose to deviate from the established guidelines, they must specify the exact reason for doing so.

Modifying or Terminating Child Support

The only way to modify or terminate a child support order once established is through a court order. If you seek a child support modification, you must show that there has been a material change in circumstances.

In many cases, a parent can have valid concerns about current child support obligations, but they may not meet the criteria for a material change in circumstance. Some circumstances may include (but are not limited to):

  • A substantial loss of income due to the parent losing a job or changing jobs
  • A promotion or transfer that has significantly increased the parent’s pay
  • Changes in child care costs
  • Changes in health insurance costs
  • One parent moving out of state
  • The child has reached the age of majority

Let the Child Support Experts at Brackin & Johnson Help You!

Many times a couple can reach a fair child support agreement without the intervention of the courts. But during a divorce, it’s often hard to reach a financial arrangement that both parties believe is fair and that adequately provides for their children. That is why the state established these guidelines.

The dedicated lawyers at Brackin & Johnson have over 40 years of experience providing comprehensive family law representation to Baldwin County, Alabama. No child support or divorce case is the same. We are ready to help you understand your legal options and figure out a settlement that works directly with your needs. 

If you or someone you love need to establish or modify child support, contact the expert child custody and child support lawyers at Brackin & Johnson today.

Common Alabama Divorce Mistakes to Avoid

Even in the best circumstances, divorces can be difficult. It drastically changes the couple’s life, their family dynamic, and how they view their relationship.  

Most people going through a divorce have very little to no experience with the legal system. As a result, they are unfamiliar with divorce laws and processes, and their lack of knowledge can lead to expensive mistakes. Therefore, it’s essential to get reliable information from a trusted source, such as an experienced divorce attorney.

Before starting the divorce process, it’s ideal to be aware of some of the common mistakes people make along the way. Today, we will take a closer look at the errors you should avoid if you’re going through a divorce.

Not Educating Yourself Before Beginning the Divorce Process

As soon as divorce is a possibility, you should begin to familiarize yourself with Alabama’s basic laws and the divorce process. By neglecting to educate yourself, you can make unintentional mistakes before your separation that can negatively affect the outcome of your divorce. Also, if there are specific issues that you know will be part of your divorce, such as child custody, retirement benefits, or alimony, you should research those ahead of time.

Failing to Get Your Finances in Order Before Your Divorce

Alabama is an equitable distribution state. In an equitable distribution state, the courts will evaluate each spouse’s contributions to the marriage (monetary and non-monetary) as well as each spouse’s ability to earn income after the divorce. Be sure to make copies of financial records, bank statements, assets, retirement accounts, wills, and other important documents and keep them in a secure location.

Assuming Your Divorce Will Be Uncontested

Most couples would prefer to have their divorce quick and easy. No one wants to deal with the extra stress, time, and money that comes with a contested divorce. However, no matter how amicable your split is, it’s important to keep in mind that you may not be able to agree with your spouse on every issue, and the courts may end up being involved. Be sure to hire a divorce attorney who can handle your divorce no matter which path it takes.

Failing to Think About Your Children

The most important thing you can do right now for your family is to support your children and make sure they do not get put in the middle of any conflict between you and your spouse. Also, if you are seeking custody of any kind as part of your divorce, make sure you contact your children regularly and keep all parenting time appointments and visitation.

In Alabama, courts use the “best interest of the child” standard when determining custody in divorces involving children. Failing to keep in contact with your children during the divorce process can be used against you in court. 

Not Being the First to File

There are advantages to being the first party to file. By filing first, you become the plaintiff and your spouse the defendant. As the plaintiff, you have the advantage of being on the offense and setting the tone of the divorce.  Not only that, you will get to go first in almost every step of the process and will have the opportunity to ask for temporary custody and support first. 

Not Hiring Your Own Attorney

Even if you have an uncontested divorce, you should have your own attorney. By hiring your own attorney, you are ensuring that you have a legal expert on your side that will do everything they can to protect you and your interests. People often trust that their spouse’s attorney will be fair, which isn’t always the case. Your spouse’s attorney has an obligation only to your spouse. Always get advice from your own attorney, and don’t sign anything until your attorney has reviewed it.

Make sure you hire someone you trust to guide you, but you must also make sure that you are not allowing them to make decisions for you. It is their job to guide you, but remember, you are the one who has to live with the consequences of those decisions.

Avoid Costly Divorce Mistakes. Let the Experts at Brackin & Johnson Help!

If you know that divorce is imminent, the sooner you start planning, the better. You never want to rush into the divorce process unprepared. The best option available to you is to hire an experienced divorce attorney to help you get prepared. 

The legal experts at Brackin & Johnson have provided family law representation to clients in Baldwin County, Alabama, for over 40 years. We will do everything we can to resolve disputes through negotiation and mediation. However, if it is in your best interest to go to trial, we will aggressively fight for you.

If you need an expert divorce attorney, contact Brackin & Johnson today. Let us help you make this process as seamless as possible.

Contact Brackin & Johnson Today!

We produce results by getting our clients what they are entitled to receive.

(251) 943-4040

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