How is Child Support Calculated With 50/50 Custody?

Parents have a general responsibility to provide financial support to their children. As a general rule, it is the non-custodial parent—the parent without primary physical possession of the child—who is responsible for paying child support. This raises an important question: Can there still be child support with a 50/50 custody split? The short answer is “yes”—the parent with a higher income may be required to pay support, with that amount being offset by the other parent’s income. Within this article, our Alabama child support lawyer highlights the key points to know about how support obligations are calculated when parents share 50/50 custody rights. 

What is Child Support?

Child support is a financial obligation where one parent—most often, the non-custodial parent—contributes to the costs of raising their child. Support is intended to cover expenses related to the child’s welfare, including education, healthcare, and daily living costs. In Alabama, the amount of child support is determined by state guidelines that consider the income of both parents and the needs of the child. Notably, child support can be awarded with 50/50 custody. 

Child Support with 50/50 Custody

Custody Affects Child Support in Alabama

The Alabama Administrative Office of Court explains that our state has generalized child support guidelines that help determine parental obligations. In Alabama, the custody arrangement in any given case plays a significant role in determining child support obligations. When one parent is awarded sole physical custody, the non-custodial parent typically pays child support to the custodial parent. However, in joint custody situations, where both parents share relatively equal time with the child, the child support calculation may differ. Alabama’s child support guidelines factor in the amount of time each parent spends with the child, as well as both parents’ incomes. The objective is to produce an equitable result for the parents and to ensure that the child’s interests are protected. 

The General Rule: Higher Obligation is Reduced By Lower Obligation

In Alabama, when parents share 50/50 custody, child support calculations adjust to reflect the balanced parenting time. The general rule applied is that the higher income parent’s obligation is reduced by the lower income parent’s obligation. In other words, the system is designed to try to create a situation where both parents calculate what they would owe in child support as if they were the non-custodial parent. From there, the smaller amount is subtracted from the larger amount, and the difference is paid by the higher earner to the lower earner.

Understanding 50/50 Custody and Child Support Calculations Through an Example

A hypothetical example can make it easier to understand Alabama’s child support guidelines for cases with 50/50 custody rights. Imagine that Parent A earns $4,000 per month in income. Parent B earns $2,500 per month. Both of these parents share 50/50 custody of one child. According to Alabama’s child support guidelines, suppose Parent A’s calculated child support obligation is $600 per month and Parent B’s is $350 per month. To determine the actual payment, subtract Parent B’s obligation from Parent A’s: $600 – $350 = $250. Therefore, Parent A would pay Parent B $250 per month. In effect, the lower-earning parent’s income is “offset” against the higher-earning parent. 

A Deviation from the Child Support Guidelines is Always Possible

It is important to emphasize that Alabama’s child support guidelines are not binding. While they are instructive and courts are required to presume that they apply to any given case, it is possible that a court can deviate from those guidelines. Why would a court permit a deviation from the child support guidelines in Alabama? It depends. Some of the most common reasons include: 

  • Specialized Health Needs of the Child: If a child has special health needs, such as ongoing medical treatments, therapy, or specialized equipment, the costs can be significantly higher than typical child-rearing expenses. In such cases, the court may increase the child support obligation to cover these additional costs.
  • Educational Needs of the Child: Another reason for a deviation from the standard child support guidelines could be the educational needs of the child, which can include private school tuition, tutoring services, or other educational materials that go beyond typical schooling costs. If these educational expenses are deemed necessary for the child’s development and are substantial, the court may consider increasing child support. 
  • Disability or Illness of Parent: If a parent suffers from a disability or a severe illness, it might affect their ability to work and earn an income at the level assumed by the child support guidelines. A court can adjust the child support obligations to take into account the reduced earning capacity of the affected parent. In some cases, a disabled parent may be spared from any child support obligations. 
  • Income Not Reflective of Financial Resources: Finally, in some cases, a parent’s income may not accurately reflect their actual financial resources. It can occur if a parent has significant assets, receives substantial non-wage benefits, or has income from sources not considered in the initial calculations. An Alabama court might deviate from the guidelines to account for the true financial capacity of each parent. 

Ultimately, child support deviations are allowed to ensure that the child support awarded reflects the specific needs and circumstances of the family involved. In Alabama, the parent who is seeking a deviation from the state’s standard child support guidelines has the burden of proving that such a deviation is appropriate. An attorney can help you build a strong and compelling case.

Speak to Our Alabama Child Support Attorney Today

At The Harris Firm, LLC, our Alabama child support lawyers are devoted to providing solutions-first legal advocacy to clients. If you have any questions or concerns about how child support works when there is a 50/50 custody split, we can help. Call us at (205) 201-1789 or contact us online for a strictly confidential consultation. Our family law firm handles child support cases and child custody cases throughout all of Alabama. 

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