Child Support in Alabama
Child support is a financial obligation that the non-custodial parent must pay to a custodial parent to help with the basic expenses of the child. Most states have their own laws with specific guidelines to determine the amount of child support to be paid and our local divorce lawyers can calculate this for you when you retain us to handle your uncontested divorce. In Alabama, the child support guidelines are determined by considering the gross monthly income of both parents and the contributions of either parent towards certain of the children’s expenses such as day care and health insurance premiums.
To calculate child support in Alabama, both of the spouse’s incomes are combined into a total income for both parties. This total income represents the total income for purposes of the guidelines. There is a child support chart (that you can go to by clicking on Alabama Child Support Chart) that the State of Alabama has created, and on this chart you would look at the total amount of income from both spouses and the number of minor children of the marriage, and there would be a certain amount of child support that both parties would be responsible for the support of the child or children. Basically, each party will be responsible for a percentage of this total amount as a percentage of their incomes.
For example, if the non-custodial spouse makes 50% of the total income then they will pay 50% of the total amount of child support on the chart and the custodial spouse will be responsible for the other 50% of the total. If one party pays for health insurance or day care expenses for the children, then this amount can be added to the total amount of child support to be paid which can alter the amount of child support to be paid. This is essentially how child support is calculated in Alabama, although all of this is from a standard form that takes you through this analysis.
In Alabama, the law is that the parents cannot negotiate the amount of child support, meaning that the amount the non-custodial parent is to pay in support is not to be part of the negotiations in reaching an agreement in your uncontested divorce. The amount typically needs to be fair, and, generally, the standard for what the fair amount to be paid in a divorce case are the child support guidelines. However, the guidelines are just estimates and may not apply to your situation if, for example, the children are spending more or less time with one parent.
If you are reaching an agreement with your spouse either in an uncontested divorce or during a contested divorce, you can agree to a different amount than what the child support guidelines calculate. However, the judge that is assigned your divorce case must approve your agreement and if the amount you have agreed to is seen as not enough or too much support (in other words, the amount agreed upon differs from the child support guidelines by a significant amount and there is not a sufficient reason why) and there is no reason why the amount agreed upon is lower or higher, then the Court might not approve your agreement and a hearing may be scheduled. Therefore, usually the parties will go by the child support guidelines in their agreement unless they have a legitimate reason why the non-custodial parent is not paying the amount in the guidelines.
Once child support is ordered by the Court, the non-custodial parent must pay this every month or they can be found in contempt of court. If you or your ex-spouse wish to alter or change this amount of support in the future, you may do so by agreement by filing certain forms with the Court and attending a hearing in front of the judge in your case. Our divorce attorneys can help you with amending the amount of child support that was ordered in a prior divorce decree or other judgment. In order to amend the amount of child support paid, there will usually have to be a change in your financial circumstances or, if the prior Order for child support was by agreement, you may be able to alter the amount by amending your prior agreement.