Calculating Child Support in Alabama

If you are involved in a paternity case or are going through a divorce and children are involved, the issue of child support will inevitably come up. Alabama, like most states, recognizes that both parents, whether married or not, are legally obligated to financially support their children. Alabama courts follow very specific rules and procedures for determining the financial responsibilities of single, separated or divorced parents. At times these rules can become exceedingly complicated and if you find yourself questioning the amount of child support ordered, you should contact The Yeatts Law Firm for help. Below, I will discuss some of the basics for how child support is calculated in Alabama.

The Income Shares Model

Alabama courts follow the "Income Shares Model" for calculating child support. The Income Shares Model is based on the policy that a child should receive the same proportion of parental income that he or she would have received had the parent's relationship stayed intact. In an intact family household the incomes of each parent are generally pooled and spent for the benefit of all household members, including any children. The Income Shares Model estimates the total amount that an intact two-parent family would likely spend on the children, and then splits the amount proportionately between the parents according to the incomes. The result is that the parent with the larger income is responsible for a greater percentage of the support, while the parent with the lesser income is responsible for a lesser amount.

Using the Income Share Model, the calculation of child support is essentially a four-step process:

  • Step 1: Calculate the gross income of both parents and add them together.
  • Step 3: Calculate the child support obligation by adding expenditures for work-related child care expenses and extraordinary medical expenses to the basic child support obligation.
  • Step 4: The final calculation is to divide the total child support obligation between the parents in proportion to their adjusted gross incomes. The obligation of each parent is computed by multiplying the total child support obligation by each parent's percentage share of their combined adjusted gross income. The custodial parent shall be presumed to spend his or her share directly on the child.

 Example of Calculating Child Support

For example, lets assume that Bob and Mary are getting a divorce. They have one child together. Bob and Mary have agreed that Mary will retain custody of their child, while Bob will have visitation and will be required to pay child support. Both Bob and Mary each gross $2000 per month in income. Child care expenses are $50 per month. For ease in calculation, assume that the cost of health insurance is completely paid by the father's employer, and there are no pre-existing support orders for child support or alimony.

Using the Alabama child support guidelines, the calculation of child support would be as follows:

  • Step 1: Add Bob and Mary's gross monthly incomes to a combined gross income of $4000.
  • Step 3: Add $50 in child care expenses to the $546.00 basic child support obligation. The total calculated child support obligation is $596.00.
  • Step 4: Finally, prorate the obligation between the mother and father based on their respective shares of total income. The father's presumptive child support obligation is thus 50% x $596.00, or $298 per month.

Deviating from the Guidelines

Alabama's child support guidelines recognize that there may be circumstances that a court may deviate from the guidelines when determining an appropriate amount of child support. Theses circumstances include:

  • Shared physical custody or visitation rights for periods of physical custody or care of children is substantially in excess of those customarily approved.
  • Extraordinary costs of transportation for purposes of visitation borne substantially by one parent.
  • Expenses of college education incurred prior to a child reaching the age of majority.
  • Assets or, or unearned income received by or on the behalf of, a child.
  • Such other facts or circumstances that the court finds contribute to the best interest of the child for whom support is being determined. A.R.J.A., Rule 32(A)(1)(e). 

The existence of any factor above does not require the court to deviate from the guidelines, but may be considered by the court in doing so.  Furthermore, the court may deviate from the guidelines even without any of the above factors as well. For more information regarding issues relating to child support contact The Yeatts Law Firm today.