When Alabama parents divorce, the court’s final order will likely include a child support provision. According to state law, both parents are required to support their children. The court assumes that a custodial parent will provide for most of a child’s financial needs, and that’s why non-custodial parents receive child support orders.
Child support determinations aren’t always easy, and certain situations, such as shared custody, may complicate things. Here, we’ll tell you everything you’ll need to know about Alabama child support and joint custody.
How Alabama Calculates Child Support
Like other states, Alabama uses guidelines to determine child support payments. These rules are based on the concept that children should get the same support they’d receive in a two-parent household.
Which Factors Do Family Courts Consider When Determining or Modifying Child Support Requirements When Parents Share Custody?
Like every other state, Alabama considers several factors when determining child support amounts and orders. They evaluate:
- Each parent’s income
- Custody arrangements
- The children’s financial and healthcare needs
- How many children are in the family
If there’s shared custody, parental income primarily determines who pays child support. Alabama uses an income share model, which is based on the amount a child would get if their parents were still together.
After making that calculation, the state will determine the child or children’s financial needs, with the final figure being a combination of a preset amount, the cost of healthcare, and childcare expenses. In families with multiple children, amounts are adjusted according to Alabama law. Once the total has been calculated, each parent’s contribution is found, with the percentage being multiplied by the total obligation to determine the parents’ required amounts.
Read More: Is an Attorney Necessary in an Alabama Divorce?
How Does Alabama Handle Childcare Costs When Parents Have Shared Custody?
Because childcare costs are so high, the state of Alabama has special guidelines that separate those expenses from others during the calculation of child support. The state considers these costs a mandatory deduction, which means that, if a parent without custody pays the expense, the other parent’s share is deducted from the required monthly payment. In cases involving shared custody, though, they also share the cost of childcare.
Exceptions to the Rules
Alabama’s child support guidelines are not hard and fast rules. They’re very useful—and frequently followed—when one parent has primary custody, and one does not. However, these situations are rare, and most parents share custody. The courts recognize this, and they know that it wouldn’t be fair to expect one parent to pay the amount recommended by state guidelines.
Alabama’s family court judges have considerable discretion to make decisions that they feel are appropriate. A judge may deviate from state guidelines in cases where parents have high or low incomes, or when children have special needs.
The answer to the question, “Do parents have to pay child support if they have shared custody in Alabama?” is, in most cases, “it depends.” While the courts are likely to order child support in some form, the amount will probably be significantly less than a person with similar finances and no shared custody would pay. For advice that’s specific to your case, call now or schedule a consultation online. We are ready to help.
Seeking Child Support Modifications in Alabama
As with other parts of state law, child support orders can be modified in some cases. If a parent has a change in circumstances, such as losing sole custody or a portion of their income, they may be able to file a petition to modify the child support order. Call our firm for help with child support modifications and requests in Alabama.
For the court to hear a modification request, the circumstantial change must be significant. The petition must include information about the modification, or it will not be accepted. If the other parent agrees with the modification, it will probably be signed; if they do not, the matter will go to family court where a judge will make the final decision.
What If a Parent Has Shared Custody and Intentionally Reduces Their Income to Avoid Paying Child Support in Alabama?
In some instances, parents purposely make less money in hopes of reducing or avoiding child support payments—and it’s far from a good decision. If parents are willfully underemployed or unemployed, an Alabama family court judge may impute income when determining child support, even when custody is shared. In these cases, judges will use the parent’s education, training, and work history to decide how much they should be making.
How Do Parents With Shared Custody Enforce Child Support Orders?
Income withholding is the state’s standard method of child support deduction. In simple terms, those responsible for child support payments have those amounts withheld from their wages. In rare cases, withholding isn’t used, and these parents must send payments to the state’s Child Support Payment Center. Child support recipients can use direct deposit or have checks mailed.
When payments are not made on time, the state can take several steps, including:
- Putting liens on the non-paying parent’s bank accounts and real estate
- Revoking professional and personal licenses
- Reporting the problem to the credit agencies
- Confiscating federal and state tax refunds
Whether you’re paying or receiving child support as a parent with shared custody, our team can help you navigate the family court system. Learn more about our firm online or call us to schedule a no-obligation consultation with an Alabama child support lawyer.
Our Legal Team is Ready to Help
If you’re a parent going through a divorce and facing a child support order, the amount you pay every month will have a notable impact on your family’s finances. At the Hankey Law Firm, our team wants to ensure that child support orders are issued justly and fairly, especially in cases involving shared custody. To find out how to initiate or change a child support order, reach out to our local lawyers online, give us a call, or visit us in person.