How Are Child Support Guidelines Determined and What Are They in Alabama?

Child support is defined as payments made by a non-custodial parent to help with the financial support of their children.  The issue of child support in Alabama can be antagonistic, whether it’s between unmarried parents or as part of a divorce.  What are the Child Support Guidelines in Alabama

Fortunately, the issue can be easily resolved because Alabama has a set of very specific child support guidelines that are used in all divorces, even easy online divorces. Alabama uses the “income share” method to calculate child support payments.  This method is set up to ensure that both the custodial and non-custodial parents are contributing to the raising of their child.  The amount of support primarily depends on the number of children and the combined income of both parents.   

In Alabama, the amount paid in child support depends on the following factors:

  • The combined gross income of both parents.
  • Each parent’s gross income as a percentage of the combined gross income.
  • The number of children under 19 years of age.
  • Any pre-existing obligations to pay alimony or child support
  • The amount that is paid for the children’s health insurance and the parent responsible for payment.
  • The amount paid for work-related childcare.

Basically the method used by Alabama in order to determine child support payments is done by estimating the amount of support that would have been available to the child if the family had not separated.  This estimated amount is divided proportionally according to each parent’s income.  In every Shelby County divorce case involving child support, there is a standardized Child Support Guidelines form and a Child Support Income Statement/Affidavit must be filed.

The Income Shares Model is used by many states, including Alabama, in order to establish the amount of child support for each child.  The model is based on indirect estimates of child costs rather than the actual spending on children.  It tries to restore the family’s standard of living for the child back to what it was prior to the divorce.  In Alabama, child support payments usually end when the child turns 19 or graduates high school, or becomes emancipated, whichever happens later.  However, if the child attends college and is not working, the noncustodial parent still has an obligation to pay child support.  If the child is disabled, the court may order the parents to continue paying child support even when the child becomes an adult, if they are unable to support themselves.

The court may deviate from Alabama guidelines according to the following reasons:

  • High costs of transportation for visitation borne substantially by one parent.
  • Expenses of college education incurred prior to a child’s reaching the age of majority.
  • Shared physical custody or visitation rights providing for periods of physical custody or care of children by the obligor parent substantially in excess of those customarily approved or ordered by the court.
  • Assets of, or unearned income received by, or on behalf of, a child or children.
  • Such other facts or circumstances that the court finds contribute to the best interest of the child or children for whom support is being determined.

Courts have latitude to set support when parent’s incomes are below or above the guidelines.  This discretion is not unrestrained, however. It must relate to the needs of raising the children.  Courts can also consider the costs of a new family, but the parent’s primary legal obligation to children is not lessened by duties to a new family. Your Birmingham divorce attorney can help explain the child support guidelines when you retain them to help you in your divorce case.

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