How Child Support is Calculated in Alabama

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Alabama Laws Child Support
This article was reviewed and approved for publication by Attorney Charlotte Christian.
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People are familiar with child support and the obligation of both parents to contribute to the support of their child or children. The goal of child support is to benefit the children.

What ordinary people do not realize is that child support was designed toward the end of giving children, not the custodial parent, a standard of living equal to or better than their parents and to prevent any child from becoming a public charge. In Alabama, the court applies a formula to make the support determination, sometimes referred to as “formulaic” child support or “guidelines” child support.

Charlotte Christian Law provides strong advocacy for parents seeking an award of fair and proper child support, which we consider to be both parents. Whether for an initial support order, modification of an existing support order, enforcement of an Alabama support order, or an out-of-state support order, we can be of assistance. We also advocate for parents in support matters requiring a preliminary paternity determination.

Throughout the State of Alabama, our family attorneys will develop the right strategy to ensure that your children receive the financial support they deserve, that is fair to both parents and the circumstances of the case.

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Alabama Child Support Formula

In Alabama, child support is calculated according to Rule 32 of the Alabama Rules of Judicial Administration. To calculate the value of the support, the state provides a formula based on each spouse’s income, childcare costs, and insurance premiums. Income, as defined in the rule, includes income from any source, such as:

  • Salaries and wages
  • Commissions
  • Bonuses
  • Dividends
  • Severance pay and pensions
  • Interest
  • Trust income
  • Annuities and capital gains
  • Social Security benefits
  • Workers’ compensation benefits
  • Unemployment insurance benefits
  • Disability insurance and benefits
  • Gifts and prizes
  • Pre-existing periodic alimony

There are factors that should not be used when calculating child support:

Calculating Child Support for the Unemployed

If a parent is unemployed or under-employed without a legitimate basis, or for the purpose of avoiding child

support obligations, the court will calculate that parent’s income at their income-earning capacity. This goes both ways. The court will not tolerate unemployment or under-employment for either parent in the face of their respective obligations to support their child or any effort to place more burden on the other parent by intentional reduction of income.

The next step is to adjust the gross income that has been calculated, noting that gross income is not reduced by any income tax withholdings. The gross income calculation of each parent is reduced by the following:

  • Pre-existing child support obligations not involved in this calculation
  • Pre-existing alimony obligations being paid out
  • There is no consideration of debt or other financial obligations of either parent

Add together the adjusted gross monthly income of each parent, called combined parental income, and determine the percentage of that amount attributable to each parent. For example, the combined parental income is $5,000, $3,000 from the father, and $2,000 from the mother. The percentage of the $5,000 attributed to each parent is 60% to the father, 40% to the mother, let’s call that the “pro-rata” share of each parent.

To calculate the basic support obligation, the state provides a formula based on the combined parental income, to which the additional costs of childcare and insurance premiums for the child. When all of these numbers are added together, each parent’s pro-rata share is attributed to them for payment, being the pro-rata share determined based upon the combined parental adjusted gross income. There can be slight changes such as when a father pays the entire insurance premium for the children, his support obligation should be reduced by the mother’s pro-rata share of that payment.

There is a presumption that the custodial parent pays their share “in-house” on the children, so no support order is made for the custodial parent.

Variation from guidelines support is also possible, meaning a way for the court to vary from the formula. An instance of this would be if the combined parental monthly income is below $500 or above $10,000, which is the income range covered by the guidelines. Above or below those numbers, the court can use its discretion in determining the proper child support obligation.

Another variation from guidelines should happen when parents have joint/split custody. This does not mean that one parent has a typical visitation schedule, including summer visitation. This means when both parents have a substantial amount of time with the children, up to and including a 50/50 sharing of time. With a 50/50 sharing, the child support obligation is calculated for both parents; the higher obligation is reduced by the lower obligation and the balance becomes the child support obligation of the parent with the higher adjusted gross income. If the sharing is less than 50/50, the court uses its discretion to determine the fair and just amount of support, under those circumstances, using the guidelines as a starting point.

There are other bases for variation which would be addressed on a case-by-case basis.

Calculating Child Support for the Self-Employed

For those that are self-employed, the court has a different way of calculating gross income. Be careful not to assume that Alabama courts will allow the same deductions as the IRS. They will not.

If you have a child support case in Alabama or need to initiate a child support filing, our divorce and family lawyers can help. We have family attorneys in Huntsville, Athens, and Birmingham who are knowledgeable of Alabama law and out-of-state child support. 

Call or text (256) 330-4580 or complete a Free Case Evaluation form

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