child support calculator in Alabama

How is Child Support Calculated in Alabama?

Both parents of minor children have the legal obligation to financially provide for them, whether they live together as part of a couple or not. Additionally, Alabama law considers that children deserve the same standard of living they had when their parents did live together. Although determining child support can become complex when the two parents no longer reside together, the state attempts to use a pre-determined child support calculator whenever possible.

Understanding the Income Shares Model Used by Alabama Family Courts

Income Shares, a formula used by many states for calculating child support, is not based solely on the actual spending of raising children. Instead, this model looks at indirect estimated of costs associated with supporting children along with each parent’s ability to contribute based on his or her income.

When two parents and their minor children live together, they typically pool their income for the mutual benefit of the entire family. Under the Income Shares Model, a family court judge estimates how much an intact two-parent family would spend on their children and then splits those expenses proportionately among the two parents based on their individual incomes. This means that the parent who earns a larger income is responsible to pay a larger percentage of support for the minor children.

Applying the Income Shares Model essentially involves following these four steps:

  1. Determine the gross income of each parent before taxes and other deductions and add the two figures together.
  2. Use the combined figure to find an approximate monthly payment for the non-custodial parent on the Alabama Schedule of Basic Child Support Obligations. This chart lists amounts based on income and number of children for basic expenses such as food, clothing, and shelter.
  3. The family law judge then calculates additional child-related expenses such as childcare, and health insurance for the children. Basic child support obligation is then calculated accordingly. A good example is a non-custodial parent who carries health insurance on the children. This would reduce the amount of his or her monthly payment. However, the amount paid to the custodial parent for maintaining this coverage would increase.
  4. For the final calculation, the family law judge divides the total amount of the child support obligation between the two parents and adjusts it based on the individual income of each. He or she then multiplies the child support obligation of each parent by his or her percentage of combined income. The parent who maintains primary custody should expect to spend funds received from the other parent directly on the support of the children.

Deviations from the Income Shares Model

Alabama family courts recognize that some situations require a deviation from the standard model of calculating child support. These include:

  • Unearned income or assets received by the child directly or on behalf of the child
  • Shared custody or visitation rights are significantly greater than what the court generally approves
  • College education expenses incurred by one parent are significant prior to that child reaching the age of majority
  • One parent incurs exceptional transportation costs to visit the children

Although these circumstances don’t require a family court judge to deviate from the normal child support calculations, it’s more likely that he or she will choose to do so. It’s also important to keep in mind that a judge can choose to deviate even without any of these circumstances present. This alone is a good reason to obtain an experienced family law attorney, whether you expect to pay or receive child support.

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Zachary Alsobrook of Alsobrook & Jackson, Attorneys at Law has several years of experience representing parents in child support cases. At a stressful time like this, you need someone looking out for the best interests of you and your children. Please contact our Opelika, Alabama office at 334-737-3718 to request a complimentary review of your family law matter.