Child Support Attorney in Auburn, AL
All children have the right to be supported financially by both of their parents. At least, that’s what the state of Alabama believes, which is why parents who do not have custody of their children are obligated to make child support payments on a recurring basis throughout the child’s life as a minor.
Child support is not optional for non-custodial parents with few exceptions, and once a child support order is issued, a parent must make payments on time and in full or be subject to legal consequences.
At Alsobrook Law, our Alabama child support attorneys know that understanding the law can be difficult. For questions about your child support obligation, how much you may owe or may be entitled to, what happens if you stop paying child support, or how to enforce a child support order, we can help. Reach our family lawyers today for your consultation and answers to your tough legal questions.
How Is Child Support Calculated in Alabama?
The amount of child support that a non-custodial parent will be liable to pay to a custodial parent is based on Alabama child support guidelines. According to Alabama’s Unified Judicial System, these guidelines are based on the income shares model which was developed by the National Center for State Courts. The idea behind the income shares model is that children should continue receiving the same level of support that they would have, had the marriage remained intact.
In order to calculate the amount of support a child is entitled to, then, the court looks at parents’ combined gross income. Based on income, a child support amount is assigned. For example, the Schedule of Basic Support Obligations shows that if parents have a combined adjusted gross income of $4,000 and have one child, that child should receive $685 in support. On the other hand, if combined gross income is $12,300, the amount a child is entitled to increases to $1,209.
Once the amount that a child should receive from both parents is determined, each parent is assigned a percentage of that amount based on their income. For example, if a non-custodial father makes $7,000 per month and a custodial mother makes $5,300 per month (for a combined $12,300), the father would be responsible for roughly $688 of the $1,209 child support obligation, or about 60 percent of it, since he contributes 60 percent of total gross income.
Applying the Income Shares Model essentially involves following these four steps:
- Determine the gross income of each parent before taxes and other deductions and add the two figures together.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Do Courts Ever Deviate from Child Support Guidelines?
The child support guidelines are used to assign support amounts in the majority of cases, but courts are not bound by the guidelines. Indeed, Alabama Rules of Judicial Administration read that the guidelines may be inappropriate when:
- Parents can enter into a fair, written agreement about child support; or
- There is evidence that suggests that strict adherence to the guidelines would be unjust or inequitable.
The rules continue to read that the court may deviate from the guidelines when:
- Custody is shared, with both parents providing for the physical care of the child and providing financial support as such;
- One parent has incurred extraordinary transportation costs because of a custody arrangement;
- College expenses are incurred;
- A child earns certain assets or income; and
- Other factors, including any factors the court finds relevant.
Paying Child Support Is Mandatory, and Modifying a Child Support Order Is Difficult
It is very important that parents understand that once a child support order has been entered or issued by a court, adhering to the order is mandatory. A party cannot simply elect not to make child support payment, and even if something happens, like a party ordered to pay support loses their job, payments must still be made on time and in full until a court decides otherwise.
It is possible to modify a child support order, but doing so is not an easy process, and cannot be done simply because one wants more child support or wants to pay less in child support. In fact, the law requires that for a petition for modification of a child support order to be granted, the modification-seeking party must prove “a material change in circumstances that is substantial and continuing since the last order of child support.”
However, there are many situations that would comprise grounds for a review to understand whether the child support modification is indeed warranted:
- The parent paying child support is now spending more time with the child, which constitutes grounds for deviating from the guidelines and reducing the amount of support of the receiving parent.
- Increase in the paying parent’s income, which would increase the child support amount owed to the receiving parent.
- Financial challenges, such as increase expenses due to major illness or inability to work due to severe injury of the parent paying child support, which would reduce the amount of support owed to the receiving parent.
- Change in the receiving parent’s income, either a decrease or increase in income, could change the amount of support accordingly.
- Cost of living expenses may rise over the course of years, as do the costs of raising a child, which could warrant child support order modifications.
- Modifications in child support laws may bring about a modification of the child support order.
Enforcing a Support Order
Whether you are a party who is entitled to receive child support or a party who has been ordered to pay child support, it is important to know that if child support is not paid, there are consequences. Indeed, there are methods of enforcing a support order, which are often pursued by the Alabama Department of Human Resources. These methods include, but are not limited to:
- Income withholding – Taking payment directly out of the paycheck of a party who has defaulted on payments;
- Civil contempt – A party who fails to adhere to a court order can be held in contempt of court;
- Income tax intercept – A party’s income tax refund can be seized; and
- Arrest – If a judge orders a party to come to a hearing due to failure to pay child support payments and the party does not show up, an arrest warrant may be issued.
Other potential enforcement remedies include placing a lien against a party’s assets, reporting the party to a credit bureau, and even federal prosecution.
Primary Factors in Determining Child Support in Auburn, AL
A number of factors may impact the calculation on child support in Auburn, AL. Among these, the most vital factor is the amount of money that the parents make.
Both Parents’ Incomes
When calculating child support, the income of both parents is taken into account. Further, the earning capability of a parent is also considered. For instance, if a physician in his 40s is playing video games all day rather than working, they may still be liable to pay child support even with no income. An associated factor is the earnings of the other parent, such as income from interest or investments.
Income and Requirements of the Custodial Parent
The custodial parent needs more support as they have primary custody of the child and will spend more to take care of the child’s needs. If custodial parents earn less than the non-custodial parent, they will receive a more substantial child support payment to cover the necessary expenses.
Structure of the Family
Family structure refers to the number of children involved. More children often mean more money, which is a truism that every parent can corroborate. Also, a factor under consideration is the amount of time each parent spends with their kids. In general, the more time a parent spends with their children, the lesser money they owe to the other parent for support payments.
The Child’s Age and Status
Based on the circumstances of an individual case and the child support agreement, child support payments may end at some juncture in the child’s life. The agreement will typically allow the parents to stop support payments when the child attains the age of majority. But at times, a family court in Auburn, AL, may require the child support payments to continue until the kids graduate from college or the children are married before the support can end.
Standard of Living of the Child before Divorce or Separation
Before deciding on child support payments, the family court in Auburn, AL, will also assess the needs and standard of living for the child prior to the divorce. The court intends to make sure that the child receives the same standard of living following the divorce and to minimize the effect of the separation on the child.
The Ability of the Parent to Pay
The court will ensure that the child support payments are reasonable and proportional to the parent’s income. The court allows a parent to modify the child support payment if they are unable to pay the amount.
Child Support Attorneys in Alabama Working for You
Providing financial support for a child is one key role as a parent, and if you’re getting divorced, you can be sure that child support will be a term that you become very familiar with. At the law offices of Alsobrook Law Group our experienced Alabama child support and family law attorney can help you to understand how support is calculated, when child support is necessary, how much you may owe, how to enforce a support order, or/and when modification of a child support order may be appropriate.
To learn more about child support obligations, please call our law firm today. You can reach us at 334-737-3718. You can also stop by our office at your convenience, or send us a message with your question using the intake form on our website.
We also handle child support cases in Auburn.