In Alabama, as in other states, both parents have a financial obligation to support their children. State law provides guidelines to determine how much a parent owes. The formula can be confusing, however, as there are several variables that are taken into account to come up with the final amount. That is why it is important to work with an experienced family law attorney so that they can ensure what you are being ordered to pay is the correct amount.
Alabama bases the child support formula off what is known as the “income shares model.” The income shares model is based on the presumption that children should receive the same ratio of support from each parent as they did when their parents were married. It presumes that when the parents were married, they pooled their resources together and both paid for things like the mortgage/rent, bills, food, clothing, and other expenses related to raising and providing children. The income shares model calculates how much a family would spend on children using the parents’ combined income, then divides it by how much money each parent makes.
Therefore, for example, if a couple made $135,000 per year when they were married, the parent making $90,000 per year would pay more in child support than the other parent who makes $45,000 per year. The Child Support Calculator is based on Rule 32 of the Alabama Rules of Judicial Administration. Be aware that the amounts may change from time to time to adjust for things like inflation.
When calculating child support, there are other factors other than just your Adjusted Gross Income that go into consideration. For instance, if your child is covered on your insurance, you can add the pro rata amount of that policy to the calculation. You can also add things like child care costs. However, for child care costs to be included they must be directly related to your work schedule or to a job hunt. For example, you pay for child care between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. on Monday through Friday while you are at work. That should be alright, but if you pay for child care from 6:00 p.m. until 12:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday night while you go out with friends that does not count.
Under the income shares model, you can estimate your child support obligations in four steps: 1) Calculate the gross income of both parents and add them together; 2) Apply the combined gross income to Alabama’s schedule of basic child-support obligations chart; 3) Add expenditures for work-related child care expenses and extraordinary medical expenses; and 4) Divide the total child support obligation between the parents in proportion to their Adjusted Gross Income. Each parent’s obligation is totaled by multiplying the total child support obligation by each parent’s percentage share of their combined Adjusted Gross Income. The parent that has custody of the child will be presumed to spend their share directly on the child.
Most people’s income will be listed in the grid on the schedule for basic child support obligation chart. But, if the combined income with your ex-spouse is less than $800.00 or over $20,000 per month, the amount of child support you will pay will be based on several factors as determined by a judge or by agreement of you and your ex-spouse.
Rule 32 of the Alabama Rules of Judicial Procedure provides for the parties to pay an amount different from the formula calculation based on a fair, written agreement between the parties. It has to state why you are agreeing to a different amount and a determination by the court, based on your evidence and arguments presented, that applying the standard formula’s calculation would be manifestly unjust or inequitable.