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.
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.
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.